No immediate halt of operation following ULFA(I) unilateral ceasefire announcement:CM

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Titabar (Assam), May 18 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said the unilateral ceasefire decision by the ULFA(I) will not result in immediate halt of operations by security forces, but viewed the move as a 'ray of hope'.

After visiting the home of ONGC employee Ritul Saikia, who had been kidnapped and taken to Myanmar by United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) militants, Sarma appealed to the chief of the banned outfit Paresh Barua to come to the negotiation table to make the ceasefire a permanent step.

On May 15, ULFA (I) had in a statement announced a unilateral ceasefire for three months due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the state with the underground outfit refraining from any operations during the period.

'In this case, we can at max say that there is a ray of hope. I am thinking positively. But, based on this statement, the government will keep silent in future or instruct police not to continue operations -- it will take time to reach such a stage,' he told reporters here.

Responding to a query on the ULFA(I)'s unilateral decision, Sarma said it is a positive move, but the outfit just issued a press release to announce the ceasefire without any discussion with the government.

'The government will continue to do its work. If someone roams around with arms, then it can't happen that we will not catch him. If a ceasefire is declared after coming to the discussion table, then some grounds would be prepared like allotting camps to live.

'I hope a discussion proposal may come from ULFA(I). We consider the ceasefire as a positive step. The next step should be discussion considering the limitations of the government. If that happens, our community will get a new lease of life,' he added.

The chief minister appealed to Barua to come to the discussion table because the people of Assam want that.

'People do not want such a scene again. I went to Tingrai and saw the parents losing their child. Nobody wants to see such a scene. I don't think even he (Barua) would have liked to see such moments had he been living in Assam,' Sarma said.

On May 14, two people were killed and another was injured in a grenade blast by suspected ULFA(I) in the market area at Tingrai under Digboi police station in Tinsukia district.

The chief minister said that ULFA(I) declared the unilateral ceasefire only due to COVID-19 and to give a chance to the new government, and no question of permanent talks have come at this moment.

'So, we don't know whether it is his (Barua's) military move, tactical move or something else. I don't want to give any negative comment.

'I am saying that as the ceasefire issue has come, let us prepare the ground rule and proceed a little more. The government's doors are open,' he added.

Sarma further said that time has not come yet to say something conclusively as very recently they took away three Assamese youths and released only two and killed one person in the grenade blast in Tingrai who was also a local youth.

'Even if not an Assamese, he would be a child of some parents. We all know these things. But, I don't want to spoil the environment by stating some harsh words. What is the harm in embracing the ray of hope?' he added.

The chief minister stressed that the state has seen enough bloodbath as the fight since 1985 has not yielded any solution to anyone with many mother's hearts becoming empty and many promising youths, who could have contributed to Assam development, now fighting with death from the jungle.

'Knowingly or unknowingly, innumerable innocent people have lost their lives in their hands.

'Many wives became widows, many parents became childless, many children became orphans... If Paresh Barua thinks to proceed to the next step with this ceasefire and prepares the ground rule, then it will be a different matter,' he added.

In addition to suspicion of their involvement in the Tingrai grenade blast, the proscribed militant outfit had hit the headlines for kidnapping three employees of the ONGC on April 21 from its Lakwa oilfield in Assam's Sivasagar district along the Assam-Nagaland border.

Two were freed later, while one is still missing.

Before this the insurgent group had kidnapped two employees of a Delhi-based oil exploration firm, but released both of them later. PTI TR SNS SNS

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