Thursday, May 8, 2008

NDFB political dialogue yet to start: Centre

NEW DELHI, May 7 – A day after the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) announced its plans to hold a massive rally on Saturday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has clarified that preliminary discussion with the militant outfit is yet to start. Confusion over the status of the political dialogue with the militant outfit today prompted the MHA to clarify its position. Assam Government’s discomfort over the issue may also be one of the reasons that led the Ministry to clarify its position.
Official sources told this newspaper that the meeting on May 1 held at North Block with the militant outfit was not part of the political dialogue process. The meeting chaired by Special Secretary (Internal Security) ML Kumawat was also attended by Joint Secretary (North-east) Navin Verma and other senior officials of the Ministry.
Sources confided that at the meeting, the five-member NDFB delegation led by its general secretary Govinda Basumatary handed over a sealed envelope. The envelope was not even opened in their presence, hence the question of holding preliminary discussions doesn’t even arise, sources said.
“We have been pressing NDFB to submit its charter of demands since the past three years, however, there has been little progress in this regard,” sources said.
The only contact the MHA had with NDFB was the Joint Monitoring Committee meetings, which reviewed the ceasefire agreement and the implementation of the ground rules, sources added.
The two sides had entered into a suspension of operation pact on June 1, 2005.NDFB continues to remain a banned militant outfit under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, sources added.
The fan fare with which the NDFB has been ‘celebrating’ the handing over of the charter of demands in the form of a memorandum to the Centre has obviously rattled Tarun Gogoi Government more than the Centre. The Congress is running an alliance government with BPPF, the rival faction.
The NDFB has announced its plans to hold a mammoth rally at Udalguri on May 10. The Bodo militant outfit has been tightlipped about its charter of demands. The release it issued was vague about its demands. The memorandum was a reflection of the Bodo people’s historical rights, the long-cherished hopes and aspirations as well as the principles and ideology of the NDFB, said information and publicity secretary of the outfit, S Sanjarang.
According to reports, Dispur has already cautioned the Centre over the possibility of initiating a dialogue on the basis of the demand for a separate country of Bodoland, pointing towards other militant outfits like ULFA, which are waiting in the wings with similar demands.
Moreover, the stated policy of the Union Government is not to entertain any demand for a dialogue, which is outside the purview of the Constitution. All discussions have to be within the four corners of the Constitution.
In fact, the prime reason behind the collapse of the ULFA peace process is the outfit’s insistence on discussing the ‘core issue’ of sovereignty of Assam. Even the NSCN peace process has now boiled down to the unification of the Naga-inhabited areas spread over the three States of Manipur, Assam and Arunchal Pradesh.

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