Sunday, August 15, 2010

People defy I-Day boycott call in northeast

Thousands of people across the restive northeast on Sunday defied a shutdown called by separatists and attended India's Independence Day celebrations while the chief ministers urged the rebel groups to come for talks. "We are happy indeed to see people rejecting calls by some militant groups to boycott the celebrations and coming out in large numbers to attend the national day function," acting Assam Chief Minister Bhumidhar Barman said soon after unfurling the national flag at a celebration here. Barman is officiating as chief minister in the absence of Tarun Gogoi, who is recuperating in Mumbai after three heart surgeries earlier this month. "Despite attempts by militants to stage violent attacks, our security forces managed to foil their designs with the active support and cooperation of the people," Barman said. Five guerrilla groups in India's northeast called a 17-hour general strike Sunday to boycott the Independence Day celebrations.The militant groups include the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), fighting for a separate homeland comprising parts of Assam and West Bengal, the Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF)-- an umbrella group of several Manipuri rebel groups, and the Tripura People's Democratic Front (TPDF).These groups are active in Assam, Manipur and Tripura. As part of their boycott call Aug 15, the militant groups called for a general strike from 1.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Sunday."There is an open defiance to the boycott call in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur. People participated in large numbers in the celebrations," an official said. Militant groups in the northeast have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi's rule over the region. "Violence is not an answer to any of the problems. We once again appeal to groups like ULFA and the NDFB to come for peace talks," Barman said in his Independence Day speech in Guwahati. The chief ministers of Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura also appealed to rebel groups to come for peace talks with the government. "Our doors for talks with militant groups are open. Problems can be resolved through negotiations and not through the barrel of the gun," Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said. There are some 30 rebel groups operating in the region, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

Appeal to militant organisations

   Manipur Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh on Sunday appealed to militant organisations to lay down arms and join the mainstream by participating in the development programmes.Speaking on the occasion of the 64th Independence Day at the first Manipur Rifles parade ground amid tight security in view of the boycott called by insurgent organisations, Singh said violence will not provide any solution and asked militants to come to the negotiation table for discussing their problems.Officials said there was heavy deployment of state and central forces at many vulnerable places in view of the boycott call given by the Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF).


Patrolling was intensified at different parts of the capital town to prevent any untoward incident.

Reports from the districts said the day was celebrated at district headquarters amid heavy deployment of forces.

Highlights of PM's Independence Day address

The following are the highlights of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Independence Day address to the nation on Sunday:

* The central government will do everything possible for rehabilitation of the affected people in Ladakh.

* We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake.

* The rate of our economic growth has been better than most other countries in the world. This shows the strength of our economy.

* To ensure equal partnership of women in our progress, we have taken the initiative for reservation for women in parliament and in state legislatures.

* The growth rate of our agriculture has increased substantially in the last few years.

* Our government wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would go hungry.

* I would certainly like to say that we are making every possible effort to tackle inflation. I am also confident that we will succeed in these efforts.

* The subsidy on petroleum products has been increasing every year. It had become necessary, therefore, to increase the prices of petroleum products.

* We want the fruits of development to reach the common man. * Our government is committed to maintain communal peace and harmony.

* We will soon bring a bill in parliament for constitution of two separate councils in higher education and health respectively so that reforms in these two areas can be accelerated.

* Naxalism is a serious challenge to our internal security. We will deal firmly with those who resort to violence.

* It is also our endeavour that our adivasi brothers and sisters join the mainstream of development.

* We have a special responsibility towards the states of the northeast. I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the northeast that disputes in the name of state or tribe can only harm all of us.

* In Jammu and Kashmir, we are ready to talk to every person or group which abjures violence. Kashmir is an integral part of India.

* As far as Pakistan is concerned, we expect from them that they would not let their territory be used for acts of terrorism against India.

* The Commonwealth Games will start in Delhi after about one and a half months. I am convinced that all our countrymen will treat the Games as a national festival and will leave no stone unturned to make them a success.