Dreaded ULFA anti-talk faction leader Paresh Barua on Friday reiterated his group’s stand of not responding to any peace talks unless the government of India was willing to consider “independence of Assam” on the agenda. “We do not want to participate in any form of peace talks unless the government of India is willing to take the (issue of) independence of Assam into consideration and practice it in their constitution,” self-styled “Major General” Paresh Asom – all Paresh Barua faction members from top to bottom nowadays use ‘Asom’ as their surname – in a statement said.
He was responding to an appeal by spiritual preacher Ravi Shankar on Thursday asking the ULFA faction and other rebel groups to come out for peace talks.
“You have repeatedly asked us to join the false, biased and ridiculous peace talks held by the Indian government. We would like to decline your request again to join the ‘mainstream’ peace talks because we only follow the revolutionary stream that will lead to an independent Asom,” Barua, who is currently “vice-chairman cum chief of staff” of ULFA (Independent) – as the anti-talk faction had renamed itself a few years ago – said.
Ravi Shankar, who was in Guwahati on Thursday to take part in a day-long conference of leaders of various armed groups of the region which are currently in peace talks with the government, had also claimed he was in touch with Paresh Barua and leaders of the NSCN(K) in order to bring them to peace negotiations. Anup Chetia, general secretary of the pro-talk ULFA faction, was convenor of the conference organised by Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living.
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Paresh Barua in his statement also said that his group had taken up arms “not to threaten” any individual or sovereign nation, but to protect themselves. “(While) you have raised concerns over our arms (sic) struggle, we have picked up arms in order to protect ourselves (and) not to threaten any individual or sovereign nation. Our struggle would not have gained recognition from the colonial government of India or the world if we did not pick up arms for the independence of our mother Asom,” Barua’s statement, written in English and e-mailed to media houses in Guwahati, said.
Ravi Shankar had on Thursday also asked Paresh Barua to give up conflict and “see things from a point of view of cooperation.” He also claimed to have rehabilitated several hundred youth of the Northeastern region who had joined different armed groups. “Many youths have lost precious years in jungles. 38 years is a long time,” Ravi Shankar later said in a tweet.
The rebel leader who is currently said to be close to the Chinese border in Myanmar, also described peace talks with the government of India as “false, biased and ridiculous” and asked the spiritual leader to stick to his “pretentious” religion instead of sending out such appeals.
“You have repeatedly asked us to join the false, biased and ridiculous peace talks held by the Indian government. We would like to decline your request again to join the ‘mainstream’ peace talks because we only follow the revolutionary stream that will lead to an independent Asom. Our struggle will continue until our ultimate goal is achieved. I urge you not to ask us to lay down our arms in (the) hope of your empty promises. I suggest you stick to your pretentious religion and let us continue our journey to freedom,” the ULFA leader said.