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Assam

ULFA announces willingness for "unconditional talks" with Govt.

The formal peace process between the Government and the banned ULFA will start on February 10 with a meeting between its delegation and the Union Home Minister after the outfit today publicly announced its willingness for "unconditional talks".
Sasa Choudhary, Foreign secretary of United Liberation Front of Assam, (ULFA) with Media secretary Mithanga Daimari (M) and Pradip Gogoi, Vice President ULFA addressing a press conference at Guwahati Press Club on February 5, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Sasa Choudhary, Foreign secretary of United Liberation Front of Assam, (ULFA) with Media secretary Mithanga Daimari (M) and Pradip Gogoi, Vice President ULFA addressing a press conference at Guwahati Press Club on February 5, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The formal peace process between the Government and the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) will start on February 10 with a meeting between its delegation and the Union Home Minister after the outfit today publicly announced its willingness for "unconditional talks".

The outfit also claimed that it was not a divided house and that its "c-in-c" Paresh Barua, who has been opposing the peace process, had been intimated about the outfit’s decision and is awaiting his formal response.

"We have received invitation from the government and we will be meeting Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi on February 10. We shall also be seeking an appointment with the Prime

Minister," ULFA "foreign secretary" Sashadhar Choudhury said at a press conference here.

"However, no fixed agenda has been laid for the first parleys," he added.

Choudhury, "vice-president" Pradip Gogoi and "publicity secretary" Mithinga Daimary also addressed the press, the first such scheduled and formal interaction with reporters by the ULFA after the peace process was initiated.

Talking about the outcome of the outfit’s central executive and general council meet, Choudhury said the ULFA leadership had been mandated to hold "unconditional talks" with the government.

"The ULFA has decided to sit for unconditional talks as it was the demand of the people of Assam as conveyed through the Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan (a civil society forum). And this decision of the

ULFA’s central executive was ratified in the fifth general council meet held on January 30," Choudhury added.

Refraining from clarifying if the outfit was ready to forsake its core demand for "sovereignty", he said, "The tendency to set conditions before talks had not made it possible to start peace parleys over the past years. We do not want to impose any pre-condition this time."

He said the agenda for the peace talks would be a reflection of the hopes and aspirations of the people of the state and will be finalised in consultation with the people as well as the SJA.

"It will take some time to prepare the agenda and we shall seek the people’s opinion on the issues that need deliberation," Choudhury said.

On Barua’s opposition to talks, he said the "c-in-c"'s comments were prior to the general council’s positive decision on talks and the outfit is awaiting a formal stand of Barua on the issue after conveying him the decision.

"The decision on talks has been constitutionally ratified by the general council and is binding on all members. Its non-compliance could invite disciplinary action," Choudhury added.

The ULFA had earlier expelled its top four leaders for coming out for talks without sanction.

The ULFA leadership, including "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa, "deputy c-in-c" Raju Baruah, ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain and "finance secretary" Chitrabon Hazarika, has been released on bail to facilitate initiation of peace talks.

The outfit was formed in April 1979, with the objective of establishing an "independent" Assam through armed struggle.

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Centre extends SoO Agreement with UPDS in Assam upto April 30

The Central Government today said that it had been decided and mutually agreed to extend the Suspension of Operations (SoO) Agreement with United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) in Assam for a further period of three months upto April 30, 2011.


Tripartite talks on the demands of UPDS are continuing, an official press release added.


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Kamatapur demand blockade hits road, rail traffic in western Assam


Rail and road traffic were severely affected in western Assam today in the wake of a 36-hour blockade called in support of a separate Kamatapur state.


The All Koch-Rajbonshi Students Union (AKRSU) had given the blockade call, which started at 0500 hrs this morning.


AKRSU supporters blocked the National Highway at several places and also staged a protest on railway tracks.


As a result, several trains, including the Rajdhani Express, were stopped on the way at different stations.


Vehicles were also left stranded on the Assam as well as West Bengal side as agitators staged demonstrations at inter-state gates.


The AKRSU has been demanding creation of a separate Kamatapur state, carved out of districts in Assam and West Bengal.


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Assam celebrates R-Day under militants’ boycott calls


Assam today celebrated the 62nd Republic Day under the shadow of a boycott by militant groups boycott and general strike calls.


Governor J B Patnaik hoisted the national flag at the central function at Latasil Field here, while ministers and legislators unfurled the tricolour at the district headquarters.


Expressing satisfaction at the improved security situation in the state, the Governor also affirmed that the government will deal with violence sternly, though it was also open to peace parleys with


militant groups which are ready to abjure violence.


A high alert had been sounded across the state ahead of the national day to thwart any subversive activity by militants or miscreants.


Six militant groups of the North East, including the ULFA, had given their customary call for boycott of Republic Day celebrations and called for a general strike from 0100 hrs to 1730 hrs on January


26.


Besides the ULFA, the other groups are the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Manipur People's Liberation Front (comprising several major militant outfits of Manipur), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the Tripura People's Democratic Front (TPDF).


Night running of trains has been suspended across the state from 1700 hrs of January 24 to 0500 hrs of January 28 by the Northeast Frontier Railway due to security concerns.


No violence has been reported from any part of the state so far, official sources said.


In Jorhat, an accidental firing from the service rifle of an Assam Police jawan at the Republic Day celebration triggered tension at the function venue.


Reports from Jorhat said two rounds were fired accidentally from the service rifle of an Assam Police personnel during the celebration. No one was, however, injured in the incident.


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Blast derails engine of goods train in Assam


Suspected militants today triggered a blast on a railway bridge near lower Haflong railway station in Assam’s Dima Hasao (formerly North Cachar Hills) district.


The engine of a goods train was derailed in the incident, though no person was injured.


Reports said the blast went off around 1230 hrs today. The driver of the train detected a strong smell of explosives as the train came on the bridge and he immediately decreased the speed, due to which the impact of the blast was minimal on the train.


A portion of the tracks came off under the impact of the blast. Militants were suspected to be behind the blast, though no outfit has claimed responsibility yet.


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ULFA claims slain youths not its cadres

The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) today claimed that the two youths killed by the Army and police in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district yesterday were not its cadres.

In a statement e-mailed to the local media, ULFA publicity wing commander "second lieutenant" Arunudoy Duhotia alleged that the youths were innocent civilians and not its cadres, as claimed by the security forces.


Two youths were gunned down by a joint team of army and police at Makum in Tinsukia yesterday following an encounter, security forces had said. The two youths were stated to be ULFA cadres and arms and ammunition were also allegedly recovered from them.


The ULFA claimed that the encounter was a staged one and the weapons reportedly recovered from them were placed by the security forces themselves.


The outfit warned of violent retaliation if Assamese youths were killed in "fake encounters".


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Assam steps up security as rebel outfits call for R-Day boycott

Tight security measures are being put in place across Assam, including suspension of night running of passenger trains, ahead of the Republic Day celebrations on January 26 as militant outfits have called for a boycott of the national day.

Six militant groups of the North East, including the ULFA, have given their customary call for boycott of Republic Day celebrations and called for a general strike from 0100 hours to 1730 hours on January 26.


"Let us not forget that under the Indian colonial occupation the future of the people of this region is doomed. We have to fight Indian colonial rule to regain our sovereignty and independence so that we can survive and exist with dignity," the outfits said in a statement.


Besides the ULFA, the other groups are the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Manipur People's Liberation Front (comprising several major militant outfits of Manipur), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the Tripura People's Democratic Front (TPDF).


Security measures have been tightened to ensure safe celebrations on January 26. Special measures have been taken at vital installations, including refineries. Security in public areas, including bus deports, airports and railway stations, has also been heightened.


The North-east Frontier Railway has announced cancellation of night running of trains from 1700 hours of January 24 to 0500 hours of January 28 in the entire state.


Night passenger trains will remain suspended from 1700 hours of January 24 to midnight of January 30 in the Guwahati-Lumding section. As many as 27 trains have been cancelled, another nine partially cancelled and short-terminated while 18 more have been rescheduled, NF Railway sources said.


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Justice Jaya Roy appointed as Judge of Jharkhand High Court

The President has appointed Ms Justice Jaya Roy, Additional Judge of the Jharkhand High Court, to be a Judge of that High Court with effect from the date she assumes charge of her office.


An official press release said here today that the President had also appointed Mr Prashant Kumar and Mr Pradeep Kumar as Additional Judges of the Jharkhand High Court, in that order of seniority, for a period of two years with effect from today.


Mr Bira Kishore Misra has been appointed as an Additional Judge of the Orissa High Court, for a period of two years with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office.


The release said the President had, similarly, appointed Mr Arup Kumar Goswami, to be an Additional Judge of the Gauhati High Court, for a period of two years with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office.


Mr Gurijala Krishna Mohan Reddy, and Mr Kolla Surya Appa Rao have been named as Additional Judges of Andhra Pradesh High Court, in that order of seniority, for a period of two years with effect from the dates they assume charge of their offices, the release added.


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CBI to move Interpol for notice against Assam serial blast accused


The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the 2008 Assam serial blasts, will soon move Interpol to issue notices against three more accused in the case who are reportedly in Bangladesh now.


Red corner notices were earlier issued against three other accused, of whom one has since been apprehended.


"We will approach Interpol shortly to issue red corner notice against three more accused. We have inputs that they have fled the country and are in Bangladesh now," a senior CBI official said today.


Interpol notice is likely against Tarun Swargiary, Tensu Narzary alia Thungri Boro and J Daimary, he said.


Red corner notices have already been issued against Baksa native Rajen Goyari alias Rifikhang and Biswagi Thorai, a 26-year-old woman, both believed to be in Bangladesh.


According to the Interpol website, the duo was involved in "use of weapons, explosives and terrorism".


They have arrest warrants issued by the Special Judicial Magistrate, Guwahati.


Rifikhang is the top elusive NDFB leader, after the arrests of the outfit’s "c-in-c" Ranjan Daimary from Bangladesh last year and his deputy George Boro alias John from Mizoram last month. George also had a red corner notice on him.


The CBI charge sheet, filed in May 2009, had named 19 National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) leaders and cadres as prime accused in the 2008 serial blasts. The accused include Daimary and Boro.


Charges have been framed against the accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Explosives Substances Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.


Eighty eight persons had died in the nine synchronized blasts across Guwahati, Barpeta Road, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon on October 30, 2008. The number of listed injured is 540.


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Fuel-carrying train's engine catches fire in Assam


A major disaster was averted today when a fire that broke out in the engine of a fuel-carrying train was doused in time in upper Assam's Golaghat district.


Official sources said the engine of the train with 51 wagons, which had left Numaligarh Refinery in Golaghat in the morning, caught fire at Adharsatra railway station at around 0930 hours.


The fire was brought under control immediately and authorities ensured that it did not spread to the wagons, which could have led to a major disaster.


The train finally left the station at about 1500 hours when a new engine arrived. A technical fault is suspected to be the cause of the incident, the sources added.


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Curfew relaxed, situation improving in Meghalaya

Authorities in Meghalaya's East Garo Hills district today further relaxed curfew for six hours from 1000 hrs to 1600 hrs in the riot-hit areas of Resubelpara sub-division, official said.

"The situation is limping back to normal, even as inmates from the relief camps have started leaving for their respective homes," East Garo Hills District Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakhsi said.


He said today another 1,800 displaced people left from some of the relief camps. "We are expecting more people to follow suit as the situation improves," Mr Bakshi told UNI.


From tomorrow, curfew will be further relaxed for 12 hours from 0600 hrs to 1800 hrs in the entire sub-division, he said.


At least ten people were killed and nearly 50,000 people displaced on both sides of Assam's Goalpara district and Meghalaya's East Garo Hills district following the ethnic conflict between members of the Garo and Rabha tribes.


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Last jailed ULFA leader released in Assam; hopes for talks rise

ULFA Finance Secretary Chitrabon Hazarika speaks to mediapersons in Guwahati on January 12, 2011, after his release from the Central Jail on bail.UNI PHOTO
ULFA Finance Secretary Chitrabon Hazarika speaks to mediapersons in Guwahati on January 12, 2011, after his release from the Central Jail on bail.UNI PHOTO

The last top jailed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader was today released on bail from Guwahati central jail, raising expectations for the early start of formal talks between the proscribed outfit and the state government.

ULFA's "finance secretary" Chitrabon Hazarika was set free from the central jail here this morning.

Emerging out of the jail, Hazarika said he favoured political resolution of the "Assam-India" conflict.

"We are hopeful of fruitful negotiations," he said, thanking the State and Central governments as well as his lawyers and Jatiya Abhibartan for securing his bail.

Hazarika was driven in a convoy to his home in Nagaon district, attending feliciations and meetings on the way.

His wife Pranati Deka, the outfit's "cultural secretary", was released on bail from the same jail last month.

Hazarika was arrested in Bangladesh in 2009 and handed over to India along with the outfit's "foreign secretary" Sashadhar Choudhury, who was released on bail yesterday.

Other top jailed leaders - "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa, "vice-president" Pradip Gogoi, "deputy c-in-c" Raju Baruah, ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain and "publicity secretary" Mithinga Daimary -

had also been released on bail.

The jailed ULFA leaders, while expressing willingness for talks, had been maintaining that negotiations could not be held from behind the bars.

The ULFA is expected to convene its executive meeting soon and thereafter general council meet to adopt a formal proposal on peace talks.

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Normalcy returning after Rabha-Garo clashes on Assam-Meghalaya border


After ten days of tension following ethnic clashes between Rabhas and Garos, normalcy is returning to Assam’s Goalpara district and the East Garo Hills district across the border in Meghalaya.


"The situation has been normal since January 10. This is the third day when everything has been reported to be normal till now," Goalpara Deputy Commissioner P K Goswami said over telephone.


He added that night curfew from 1800 hours to 0600 hours was imposed in four police station areas - Dudhnoi, Krishnai, Rangajuli and Dhupdhara.


Mr Goswami said 39 relief camps for about 35,000 displaced people of both Rabha and Garo community were still functioning.


"One relief camp for about 1600 Garo community people has been closed today as the people wanted to return to their villages," the deputy commissioner said.


Over 170 arsonists have been apprehended in Goalpara so far, he said.


At least five people were killed in Assam and four in Meghalaya in clashes between Rabha and Garos since the beginning of the New Year.


Earlier, additional Central security forces were deployed and even shoot-at-sight orders were given in Goalpara to bring the situation under control.


The area has been witnessing tension and clashes since the beginning of the New Year between Garos and Rabhas after Garo community allegedly attacked Rabha villages in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district in retaliation for an alleged attack on Garos in Goalpara district (Assam).


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ULFA "foreign secretary" released on bail in Assam


United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) "foreign secretary" Sashadhar Choudhury was released on bail from the central jail here in keeping with the government’s side of the deal to initiate formal peace parleys with the banned outfit.


Walking out to freedom, Choudhury thanked the government, his lawyers and the judicial system for helping him procure his bail.


Expressing his support to talks, he said, "We are ready for political resolution of the conflict."


"The global scene also demands talks. Our arrest in Bangladesh also points towards it," he said.


Choudhury will be driven in a convoy to his ancestral home at Nalbari district, where felicitations and meetings have been lined up.


Choudhury and ULFA’s "finance secretary" Chitrabon Hazarika were apprehended in Bangladesh and handed over to Indian authorities.


Hazarika has also procured bail in all TADA cases along with Choudhury yesterday and is expected to get bail in another criminal case today. Hazarika is the only top ULFA leader yet to be set free.


Meanwhile, ULFA "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa, who was released on bail from the central jail here on January 11, today visited the outfit’s elusive "commander-in-chief" Paresh Barua’s residence at Jeraigaon in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.


Reaching Barua’s house this morning accompanied by his wife Kaberi Kachari and ULFA ideologue Bhimkanata Buragohain, Rajkhowa urged Barua's mother Miliki Barua to give her blessings and good wishes to the peace process.


Kaberi, Buragohain and other family members of ULFA leadership also knelt before Miliki Barua and offered her "gamocha" and "sarai" as a token of respect.


The octogenarian mother of Barua, giving her blessing to the peace process, said, "My good wishes are with you all in this new endeavour. May you succeed in your venture."


"May all issues be resolved at the earliest," she said, tears welling up in her eyes as she also talked about her son.


Rajkhowa is leading the outfit’s peace initiative and preparing the ground for a formal resolution by the ULFA to start parleys with the government.


However, Barua and a few other leaders and cadres under him have been opposing the talks move and have remained evasive of the authorities.


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Meghalaya-Assam DGPs to meet, MHA says situation improving


Top police officials from Meghalaya and Assam will meet tomorrow in Guwahati to chalk out a joint patrolling mechanism in violence-hit Goalpara and East Garo Hills districts, even as 103 rioters were arrested in Meghalaya, a police official said today.


Curfew remained clamped on both the sides in the strife-torn areas in Assam and Meghalaya, even as district authorities of Goalpara issued shoot-at-sight orders.


"I will be meeting my Assam counterpart tomorrow together with Home Ministry officials and try to work out a joint strategy to put an end to ethnic violence between Rabha and Garo tribes," Meghalaya Director General of Police S B Kakati said.


The ethnic clashes, which entered the tenth day today, have claimed 10 lives and left nearly around 50,000 people displaced on both sides of the border in Assam’s Goalpara district and Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district.


Mr Kakati said police from both the states have set up a joint control room at Mendipathar (East Garo Hills) to monitor the ground situation in the inter-state border.


"Although the situation is under control, it is far from normal as there is confusion and panic amongst the people," he added.


Union Home Affairs Joint Secretary in-charge North Eastern States Shambu Singh visited the riot-hit areas in Meghalaya's Resubelpara sub-division and Assam’s Goalpara district and took stock of the ground situation.


"The situation is back to normal in East Garo Hills district, and is improving in Assam's side. However four more additional companies of para-military forces would be sent to Assam apart from the already deployed five companies," Mr Singh told UNI over the telephone.


Denying the involvement of militants organisations in the ethnic flare-up, the Home Ministry official said, "The clashes appeared to be well-planned attacks and some organisations are behind it. We don't have any concrete evidence of any militants involved in the clashes either from Meghalaya or Assam."


Altogether 89 people were arrested today by the Army along the Assam-Meghalaya border. They also seized a register assigning names of people to create trouble in trouble-torn areas, Mr Singh revealed.


"From these arrests, it appears that the conflict was a well-planned attack and there are some organisations which are behind it as all those arrested have come all the way from Chokpot (South Garo hills district) and Tura (West Garo Hills district)," Mr Singh stated.


Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs three lakh to the next kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured.


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No general amnesty to ULFA yet: Assam CM

While there was no proposal for general amnesty to cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the Assam government's offer for safe passage during this month's Bhogali Bihu remained open, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said here today.

"There is no proposal for general amnesty at the moment. However, we are willing to provide them with an opportunity to visit their homes during Bhogali Bihu this weekend," Mr Gogoi said.


The ULFA has already rejected Mr Gogoi's safe passage offer.


To a poser on when formal talks with the outfit will start, he said that while no specific timeframe had been ascertained, the talks would start soon.


"There is no specific date as of yet. The ultimate decision will be the ULFA's now as they have to call their meetings to come up with a resolution to initiate talks," he said. "We will like the talks to start as soon as this month itself."


Accepting that a section of ULFA leaders and cadres were still against talks, Mr Gogoi said, "It is a small section and our doors will always remain open for them."


The Chief Minister once again affirmed that the government's willingness to talks will not soften its stand against militants engaging in violence.


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More forces rushed to Goalpara in Assam, shoot-at-sight orders given

Additional central security forces were today deployed in Assam's Goalpara district even as shoot-at-sight orders remained in force following ethnic clashes between Rabhas and Garos of neighbouring Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district.

The Joint Secretary of the Home ministry also reviewed the situation at a meeting today.


"Army has been patrolling the disturbed areas and ten companies of additional central security forces have arrived today for Goalpara," Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said here today.


The toll stood at nine so far as per the Assam government records with five reported deaths in Assam and four in Meghalaya. Twenty people had sustained injuries in the clashes so far in Assam.


Mr Gogoi said shoot-at-sight orders had been given in the district and over 100 miscreants of both communities had been apprehended so far. He said both state governments were in constant touch and a joint control room would be set up at Mednipathar.


"We appeal for peace and calm and urge the people not to be worked up by miscreants' rumours or acts," Mr Gogoi said.


He said the state government would provide an ex-gratia of Rs 300,000 to the next kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured.


Close to 35,000 people were sheltered in 37 relief camps in Assam. Of these 18,000 belonged to the Rabha community people, who fled Meghalaya.


Goalpara had been witnessing tension and clashes since the beginning of the New Year between Garos and Rabhas after some members of the Garo community allegedly attacked Rabha villages in Meghalaya's East Garo Hills district in retaliation of an alleged attack on Garos in Goalpara district (Assam).


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NDA lambasts UPA in anti-corruption rally at Guwahati

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today lambasted the ruling Congress-led United progressive Alliance (UPA)at the Centre over corruption charges, raising questions about the integrity of the ruling party’s chief Sonia Gandhi.

Taking on the government for its alleged rampant corruption, senior BJP leader L K Advani told an anti-corruption rally here, "If all the black money that is stashed away in foreign banks by the corrupt Congress leaders is brought back into the country, then the common man will not have to pay any tax to run the administration for years together."

Linking the escalating prices of essentials to the alleged corruption in the government, Mr Advani said, "Price rise is a direct fallout of the corruption. If the government wants to deny the corruption charges, they must clarify their position and come out clean convincingly."

To elaborate the level of price rise witnessed in the country, Mr Advani cited the instance of shopping malls offering one kg of onions on purchase of clothes worth Rs 1,000.

NDA leader and Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, addressing the rally, said, "Price rise has been sown on the grounds of corruption by the Congress."

He also slammed the government for refusing to concede the Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, hitting out at the government for the multiple scams, said, "In 2010, the UPA was rocked by three scams (Commonwealth Games, Adarsh housing society and telecom). But the beginning of the new year brought back the ghost of its old scam, Bofors."

"The Congress sacrificed their scapegoats in the other scams. Now that their ‘first family’s’ name has emerged in Bofors, let’s see what they do now," she said in a reference to Ms Gandhi.

Ms Swaraj’s counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley also slammed the government on corruption and price rise charges.

"Prices are rising such that it appears there is some conspiracy involved and it is due to wrong economic policies," he said.

Referring to the multiple scams that rocked the government in the previous year, Mr Jaitley said, "The Congress has nowhere to hide its face."

BJP national president Nitin Gadkari also criticised the government on corruption charges and said his party was committed to exposing the wrongdoings of the UPA.

Other senior NDA leaders, including Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, were also present at the rally. The rally was organised as part of the NDA's nationwide campaign against corruption.

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Toll mounts in Assam-Meghalaya ethnic clashes

Tension continued to mount along the Assam-Meghalaya border in Assam’s Goalpara district with the toll in ethnic clashes between Rabhas and Garos rising to five today.

Overnight violence left one Rabha person and a Garo community person dead in Goalpara. The toll is higher on the Meghalaya side.


"Villages were torched during the past night and two more persons were killed in clashes," confirmed Goalpara deputy commissioner P K Goswami over telephone.


"The situation was tense till the forenoon, but is stable now," he


added.


Some miscreants of both communities had been arrested while trying to torch houses, Mr Goswami said.


Curfew continued to be clamped in Dudhnoi, Krishnai, Dhupdhara and Rangajuli Police Station areas of Goalpara district. It had been lifted on the national highway, he said.


Goalpara has been witnessing tension and clashes since the beginning of the New Year between Garos and Rabhas after Garo community people attacked Rabha villages in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district in retaliation to an alleged attack on Garos in Goalpara district (Assam). Thousands of people are taking shelter in relief camps in both the states.


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BJP attacks Govt. on corruption, price rise, terrorism and governance

BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, senior party leaders L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Murali Manohar Joshi lighting the lamp to inaugurate the two-day National Executive meeting of Bhartiya Janata Party in Guwahati on January 8, 2011. UNI PHOTO
BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, senior party leaders L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Murali Manohar Joshi lighting the lamp to inaugurate the two-day National Executive meeting of Bhartiya Janata Party in Guwahati on January 8, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today launched a frontal attack on the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on the issues of corruption, terrorism, prices and governance and said the people were looking towards it to provide leadership that would translate their aspirations into reality.

"The nation is facing one of the severest crises of leadership," BJP President Nitin Gadkari told the meeting of the National Executive of the party which began in Guwahati, Assam today.

"From sports to civil supplies and telecommunication to civil aviation, UPA-2 has allowed every arena of governance to be exploited by scamsters. And while looters were emptying the government coffers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was standing guard with his eyes closed and, perhaps, hands tied," Mr Gadkari said.

The BJP President referred to the alleged 2G spectrum scam and the allegations about the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal's report on the Bofors gun deal.

"We have every reason to believe that these scams are not just systemic failures much less any kind of just aberrations. These scams are some kind of a planned loot of national coffers," he said, calling for a Special Investigation Team to probe the Bofors issue.

He wondered why the Government was shying away from appointing a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G issue, as demanded by the Opposition.

Mr Gadkari listed the various measures taken by the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government to fight corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in governance, including the limit on the number of ministers and steps to streamline funding of elections.

He said the BJP had asked all the State Governments headed by it to introduce e-tendering systems and other measures for ensuring clean and corruption-free governance.

The BJP chief said the UPA's track record in fighting terrorism was also extremely poor. He said there was confusion on the Kashmir front and rudderlessness on the Naxal issue.

"While we all in BJP and many of our Chief Ministers are consistently asking for a common strategy and concerted efforts to fight with the Naxalite menace, UPA is speaking in many voices on every terror related issue. Within the ruling party, there are elements who hobnob with the Naxals, pamper those who see India as an encroacher in Jammu and Kashmir and try to play with the sensibilities of the majority community by blowing up the threat of peripheral groups to rake up the so called Hindu terrorism," he said.

He said the "irresponsible utterances" of some UPA leaders were bound to weaken India's case and give a fillip to those from across the border.

"At this juncture, we demand that the government publish the entire data pertaining to terrorist attacks since 2004 and give details of the investigations completed, cases filed and conviction made of the guilty. The nation also seeks information about the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the government for those who are victims of terror in one way or the other," he said.

On inflation, he alleged that, instead of bringing the prices down, there was an increase in the list of items becoming dearer.

Mr Gadkari accused the Congress of neglecting the development needs of the North-East region and recalled that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government had set up a Ministry for the Development of the North-East Region (DONER). He listed the steps the party is taking with regard to the region, against the background of the coming Assembly elections in Assam.

He also talked about the achievements of the various state governments headed by the BJP and their commitment to good governance.

The BJP President hoped the Government would take all necessary steps to build upon the recent visit of United States President Barack Obama to India’s advantage; especially in respect to India’s war against terrorism.

He crititicsed the Government's policy on Pakistan and urged the Government to take a discerning view of "enlightened self-interest" in its interactions with China.

He welcomed the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit and hoped that all sections of society would now help make a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya possible.

Mr Gadkari urged the party to prepare itself for assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, saying they would give the BJP an opportuity to expand its support base.

"I earnestly appeal to the people of Assam to give BJP a chance. Let me assure them that if we are given an opportunity, our government will not only prevent any further infiltration resolutely but also drive away all those who are not citizens of India and are staying here illegally" he said.

He spoke about the importance of the BJP's stellar performance as part of the NDA's victory in the recent Bihar assembly elections.

"The strike rate of 89% is a historic feat in the annals of India’s electoral history. There are multiple factors that made this success possible and we must understand them. Our State leadership as well as all 'karyakartas' deserve all congratulations for this success. United party organisation, micro-management at the grass root level, right selection of candidates and above all the credibility that we have painstakingly earned on the front of good governance are some of the key factors," he said.

He also said that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, of the Janata Dal (United), had contributed greatly in this victory of the NDA.

"After we had met at Patna in June last, many of our state units have achieved remarkable success in different elections. In Jammu and Kashmir, in the elections for Ladakh Autonomous Region, for the first time we have a representation with five of our candidates emerging victorious. In Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, people have reposed their faith in a big way in the BJP in local elections. In Kerala also we have increased our tally in local elections. Let me also share a sense of satisfaction over noteworthy electoral success achieved by our units in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh as well as Andaman Nicobar and Dadara Nagar Haveli," he added.

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BJP focuses on corruption at National Executive meeting in Guwahati

Incensed over Communications Minister Kapil Sibal's outright rubbishing of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on 2G spectrum allocation and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Order that the Rs 41 crore kickbacks paid to Bofors agents were taxable, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today launched a broadside against the Government and said the party would thwart all hush-up operations.

The party's National Executive, which started here today, is all set to come up with a resolution on corruption, which according to party sources, will highlight the alleged corruption of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and draw up a blueprint to take up the issue both in and outside Parliament, even at the cost of stalling the coming Budget Session.


The Winter Session of the Parliament was entirely washed out without transacting any business.


The leaders attending the conclave aired serious concerns over Mr Sibal's latest stand that the CAG had arrived at an erroneous conclusion that the loss to the exchequer was Rs 1.76 lakh crore and said that, with this development, there would be no compromise at all on their demand for a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the affair.


If there was no loss to the exchequer, the Government must explain why they made DMK's A Raja resign as Communications Minister, they said. They also said Mr Sibal's argument had negated the existence of the CAG, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a top BJP leader said.


The party averred that it would not get into the trap of the Congress attempts to divert the issue of corruption and terror and the party would stick to its stand.


The verdict of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, that the Rs 41-crore commission paid to Bofors agent Win Chadha and Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi was taxable, has given the BJP a big stick to hit a combative Congress with at the two-day meeting taking place in this picturesque city on the banks of the Brahmaputra.


With the Congress dumping the 2G spectrum issue, the BJP has caught on to the age-old Bofors issue which got revived by the ITAT order which directly links with the Bofors agents -- Win Chadha and Italian fugitive businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, believed to have direct connections with the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's house when the scam broke out in the mid-1980s.


Top party leaders including Chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party L K Advani, BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states, have all arrived in this state, which is due to elect a new legislative assembly before May 26 this year.


The party will link its corruption resolution with the rising prices to pursuance of wrong policies and non-governance and a massive rally against corruption has been proposed to be held on Sunday.


A whopping 18 per cent rise in food commodity prices, denial of development to the masses and governance are the other issues that will be under sharp focus.


Although the party has announced its decision to go it alone in the Assam elections, the leadership has not ruled out the possibility of a tie-up with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).


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Tension continues along Assam-Meghalaya border after ethnic clashes


Tension continued to mount along Goalpara and East Garo Hills districts in Assam-Meghalaya border following ethnic clashes between Rabha and Garo tribes since the past weekend.


Efforts are on by both the state governments and respective district administrations to maintain peace and calm even as fresh flare-ups were reported.


Reports said villages of both communities were torched inside Assam as well as Meghalaya since last night in fresh incidents.


One person has died in the incident so far in Assam’s Goalpara district. The toll in Meghalaya’s adjoining East Garo Hills district is reported to be seven so far.


Senior Assam Cabinet Ministers Bhumidhar Barman, Nurjamal Sarkar, Rockybul Hussain and Promila Rani Brahma today visited areas in Goalpara district to take stock of the situation.


Appealing for calm and restraint, they also assured complete security to the displaced people.


About 20,000 Rabha tribal people have been forced to flee East Garo Hills district in Meghalaya since the clashes erupted.


The displaced people are being lodged in relief camps in Goalpara, while many are taking shelter in relief camps inside Meghalaya itself.


The area has been witnessing tension and clashes since the weekend between Garos and Rabhas after Garo community people allegedly attacked Rabha villages in East Garo Hills districts in retaliation of an alleged attack on Garos in Goalpara.


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ULFA "chairman" meets peace interlocutor P C Halder after release


United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa and "deputy commander-in-chief" Raju Baruah today met Centre-appointed peace interlocutor P C Haldar to discuss on formal initiation of peace parleys between the banned outfit and the government.


This was the first meeting with the peace interlocutor after Rajkhowa’s release on bail from Guwahati central jail on January 1.


Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rajkhowa said, "A formal announcement on talks is yet to be made by the ULFA. We discussed ways to facilitate such an announcement."


He said any formal decision on talks had to be first taken by the executive council of the ULFA and it had to be ratified by the General Council.


"We will go to the public and all ULFA members before the final formal declaration on talks," he said.


Rajkhowa said the matter of ULFA "general secretary" Anup Chetia’s extradition from Bangladesh was also raised by him during the meeting.


"We have appealed to the government to facilitate Chetia’s return to Assam for the sake of peace talks," the rebel leader said.


The two-hour long meeting, held at the Circuit House here, was also attended by Assam Police Special Branch Additional Director General Khagen Sharma.


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Our aim is always peace: ULFA 'chairman' Rajkhowa

Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO

United Liberation Front of Asom "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa, who was released on bail from the Guwahati Central Jail yesterday, today reached his ancestral residence at Lakuwa in Sivsagar district.

Rajkhowa arrived in his home district after receiving felicitations and addressing meetings en route and spending the night at Kaziranga.

Before proceeding home, the rebel leader addressed the public and media at Rang Ghar, the very place where ULFA was born.

Reiterating the outfit’s willingness for talks, Rajkhowa said, "The ULFA is ready for political resolution of our demands. There is no division in the outfit on this."

"We may have chosen means of armed struggle, but our aim is always peace," he said.

Rajkhowa said the ULFA was ready for unconditional talks and also urged the government to come with an open mind to the negotiating table, in an apparent reference to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s statement yesterday that "sovereignty was non-negotiable".

Rajkhowa also said it was necessary that the outfit’s "general secretary" Anup Chetia be brought from Bangladesh for the ULFA to take a formal decision on initiating peace talks with the government.

The ULFA "chairman", who was handed over to India by Bangladeshi authorities in December 2009, was released on bail to facilitate peace talks with the outfit.

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ULFA chairman released on bail, Gogoi hints at lifting ban on group

ULFA "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa was released from jail on bail on Saturday and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi later said the government would consider lifting the ban on the outfit when it sits for formal talks.
Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO
United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa was released from jail on bail today and  Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi later said the government would consider lifting the ban on the outfit when it sits for formal talks.

"The ban on the ULFA has not been lifted yet. But if needed, the ban will be withdrawn," he said, interacting with reporters on New Year’s Day at his official residence here.

He pointed that a section of the outfit was still outside the talks group and was attempting violent strikes, which makes it difficult to lift the ban at the present moment.

On the government allowing "ULFA zindabad" slogans and meetings by the outfit’s leaders, Mr Gogoi said the government had decided not to interfere as long as the outfit uses such platforms for talking peace.

"Now ULFA will decide when the formal peace process will start.

We are doing our bit, but they have to take the decision on their part too," the Chief Minister said.

He said that security forces’ operations against the militants won’t be stopped till all members come into the mainstream.

On ULFA "general secretary" Anup Chetia’s extradition from Bangladesh, Mr Gogoi said there was no immediate proposal for such a move.

"The state government has asked the Central Government for Chetia’s extradition, but we don’t know the current status," he said.

On ULFA rejecting his safe passage offer, the Chief Minister said his offer still stood open. He also hoped that all cadres of the outfit, including "C-in-C" Paresh Barua, would join the peace process.

The New Year brought with it hopes of peace finally returning to Assam as Rajkhowa walked out to freedom from the Central Jail here today and stated categorically the outfit’s support for unconditional talks.

After securing bail in all cases against him on December 30, the bail formalities were completed by Rajkhowa’s family yesterday and the rebel leader was released from the prison here at 0800 hours.

Talking to waiting mediapersons, Rajkhowa said, "ULFA is ready for unconditional talks. A formal declaration on this will be made soon."

Arbinda Rajkhowa, Chairman of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), talks to the media outside the Central Jail in Guwahati on January 1, 2011, after being released on bail for the ULFA- government peace talk. UNI PHOTO
Arbinda Rajkhowa, Chairman of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), talks to the media outside the Central Jail in Guwahati on January 1, 2011, after being released on bail for the ULFA- government peace talk. UNI PHOTO

He said bail of two top jailed ULFA leaders, "finance secretary" Chitrabon Hazarika and "foreign secretary" Sasha Choudhury, was necessary for starting talks with the government.

"The government must take steps to bring back our general secretary Anup Cheita from Bangladesh for the peace talks to start," he said.

The rebel leader also claimed that there was no division in the ULFA on ideological links.

"There is no opposition from any ULFA member, including c-in-c Paresh Barua, to political resolution of the India-Assam conflict," Rajkhowa asserted.

He also expressed his gratitude to the Jatiya Abhibartan for placing before the government the public’s great longing for peace and the government paving the way for the outfit’s leaders to start

talks and bring back peace.

"We are also grateful to our lawyers and the court for the release," he said.

Rajkhowa’s wife Kaberi, ULFA "vice-chairman" Pradeep Gogoi and his relatives had come to Guwahati to take the rebel leader home to his ancestral Lakuwa in Sivsagar district.

Thousands of people are expected to felicitate Rajkhowa on his way home and a massive feast has been organised at Lakuwa to welcome home its son.

Rajkhowa was handed over to the Indian authorities by Bangladesh in December 2009.

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