The chairman of the pro-talk faction of the proscribed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Arabinda Rajkhowa, has said that they will not participate in any election “till the Indo-Assam problem is resolved”.
As per reports, Rajkhowa’s statement comes in the wake of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls which will be held in Assam in three phases – April 11, 18 and 23 next.
“We have resolved not to cast our vote till the Indo-Assam issue is solved. All of us have been waiting for a solution,” Rajkhowa said.
The ULFA dove urged the people of Assam to “think twice” before voting in the forthcoming elections.
“We appeal to the people of Assam to vote for eligible candidates. Assamese people should think before voting for a candidate. Vote should be cast for the candidate who will work for the people of Assam and protect the Assamese culture,’ Rajkhowa added.
Another pro-talk ULFA leader Jiten Dutta remarked that they were keeping a “close watch” on the pre-poll situation in Assam. “People should be alert and conscious about their rights before voting,” Dutta said.
Pro-talks ULFA general secretary, Anup Chetia, also stated that as members of the outfit had not participated in any electoral process since the inception of the outfit, they would not participate in the electoral process.
“We have never cast our votes ever since the inception of Ulfa. So, in keeping with the tradition, we are going to refrain from voting this time as well,” said Chetia. The pro-talk faction of the Ulfa, who has been in talks with the Government of India, has about 2,500 cadres in their designation camps as of now.
He, however, clarified that the outfit is not going to boycott the polls as reported by a section of the media. “There is no question of boycotting the Lok Sabha polls. However, we are going to refrain from the polls until the talks process is over and our demands are fulfilled,” said Chetia.
Asked about the parleys, Chetia said that the ball is in the court of the central government now. “We have held several rounds of discussion and submitted our charter of demands,” he added.
It may be mentioned here that majority of the ULFA leaders including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who had been holed up in Bangladesh, were arrested by the Bangladesh authorities in 2010 and were handed over to Indian authorities in the same year. Subsequently, they agreed to sit for peace talks and were released on bail. However, ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah has remained in Maynmar with a few of his comrades and they are yet to respond to the peace initiative of the Government of India.
Chetia, was arrested in Bangladesh on December 21, 1997 and since then he had been languishing in different jails of the neighbouring country till his extradition to India in November 2015. Once out on bail, Chetia also decided to join the peace talks.
The National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Progressive (NDFB-P) has, however, said they would be participating in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Gobinda Basumatary, general secretary of the rebel group, informed that their leaders and cadres will cast their vote in three designated camps- Kokrajhar, Baksa and Udalguri.
Basumatary said, “All 959 members of our group will exercise their franchise in the forthcoming general election in our designated camps.”
The Ranjan Daimary-led NDFB has still not taken a decision on participating in the upcoming general elections. Daimary is lodged in Guwahati Central jail. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court on January 30 last in connection with the 2008 Assam serial blasts case. Eighty-eight people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the blasts.