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India`s N-E states offer unconditional peace talks with separatist

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Guwahati, Jan 26, IRNA -- Regional governments in India`s restive 
northeastern states offered unconditional peace talks with separatists
on the country`s Republic Day Monday to end decades of violent 
insurgency in the region. 
"Militant groups should shun the path of violence and join the 
mainstream by holding peace talks with the government," Assam state 
Governor Ajai Singh said in his Republic Day speech. 
"Our doors for negotiations with any insurgent groups are open." 
At least nine separatist groups in the region called a 17-hour general
strike to boycott the country`s Republic Day to protest against New 
Delhi`s alleged `colonial` rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea,
and timber. 
The strike began at Monday midnight in five of the seven states, 
barring Mizoram and Nagaland. There are no rebel groups in Mizoram, 
while the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), currently 
operating a ceasefire with New Delhi, have not called for a boycott of
the Republic Day. 
"Violence and bloodshed are no answer to solving any of the 
regions grievances and only through talks could all such problems be 
resolved," Meghalaya Governor M.M. Jacob said in his speech. 
Meanwhile, people in the region defied the rebel boycott call and 
took part in the celebrations with great enthusiasm. 
"It is time for all of us to revolt against militancy and their 
diktats," said schoolteacher Arun Das. "People are sick and tired of 
the violence and killings." Police said the rebel boycott call has 
failed to make an impact. 
"Life in Manipur, Tripura, and Meghalaya, and Assam were going on 
as usual with people rejecting the militants` call for observing a 
general strike," a police official said. 
There are more than 30 rebel armies operating in the northeastern 
states with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the
right to self-determination. 
At least 16 persons, including eight paramilitary soldiers, were 
killed during the run up to the Republic Day in the states of Assam, 
Meghalaya and Manipur. Rebels in Assam and Manipur said they had 
killed 24 security personnel since January 10 when they launched 
`Operation Freedom`. 
At least 60,000 federal soldiers were deployed across the seven 
northeastern states to foil attempts by separatists to create 
violence in the region. 
"So far the militants were unable to create any disturbance in the 
region," an army commander said. More than 50,000 people have lost 
their lives to insurgency in the northeast since India`s independence 
in 1947. 
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