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|June 19, 2001||
The Rediff Interview/Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi
A cease-fire is usually applauded. But the Centre's move to extend the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to the Naga-inhabited areas in other Northeastern states has met with stringent criticism, especially from Assam.
In an exclusive interview withRamesh Menon in New Delhi, Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, says the cease-fire holds out ominous portents. Excerpts:
You have been very upset with the Centre's move to extend the ceasefire with the NSCN.
We welcome the extension of the ceasefire as long as it is confined to Nagaland. But we are strongly opposed to the extension of the ceasefire in Assam.
You see, there is no reason to extend it. Unless there is a motive, why should it be extended to other Northeastern states? Obviously the Naga insurgents have got their eyes on a lot of other areas other than Nagaland. They basically want to link all these areas into making what they call a Greater Nagaland.
You have said that Assam will never agree to the concept of a Greater Nagaland.
We just cannot concede any land from Assam to carve out another state. If we do it, the Kukis will be up in arms for a Greater Manipur, the Khasis will be up in arms for a Greater Meghalaya. There will be no end to it. The Nagas are not the only tribe who live in Assam.
What will happen with the extension now?
As it is there are numerous terrorist camps in Assam and other Northeastern states. The ULFA has already established links with numerous insurgent groups that include the NSCN. Obviously, this is dangerous. There will be an increase in militant activities. We are opposing the ceasefire only to ensure that the militant activity does not escalate.
You seemed quite upset after the declaration of the cease-fire.
We were not even consulted. How can the central government do this? We could easily have been taken into confidence. These are sensitive issues.
How did you come to know of the cease-fire?
The home secretary in New Delhi sent a fax to my chief secretary about the extension. That is how I came to know. This is no way to handle something as sensitive as this. Manipur is burning with militant activity at the moment.
What are the feelings in other states about this?
The governor of Manipur also spoke to Home Minister L K Advani and said the same things I am saying. He conveyed the resentment of the people of Manipur.
I also spoke to Arunachal Chief Minister Mukut Mithi. He feels the same. He does not have a major problem of insurgency like me. He only has to worry about some minor activity in two districts. I have to worry about large-scale insurgency in Jorhat, North Cachar, Karbi Anglong, Golaghat and Sibsagar.
You just met the home minister. What did he say?
He just said that he would take care and I should not worry.
What did you say?
The home minister does not know the ground realities in Assam. It is not going to be easy.
What is the solution?
The solution is -- let not this peace process be confined to Nagaland. Yes, we want peace in Nagaland. But why not peace in the other states? What the Centre should have done is to work out a comprehensive peace package for all insurgent groups of the Northeast. This is our demand now.
What are you planning to do about the ULFA insurgency in Assam?
I have already made appeals to the ULFA saying we are interested in peace.
What we are planning is a long-term strategy and not one for one or two years. We have to concentrate on development activities. Many of our youngsters have strayed into the ULFA only because they have nothing to do, as they cannot find jobs. Unemployment is a serious issue in Assam. We cannot, therefore, wait for peace to return before we start on development-oriented and employment-generating activity.
Do you think the ousted AGP will let you contain the ULFA or win them over?
The ULFA was created by the AGP.
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