Describing ULFA (I) as the last mile in Assam’s path to peace, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday urged members of the outfit to return to the mainstream and be a part of the development process.
Once it comes for talks, Assam will transform into an “island of peace”, he said.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the 74th Republic Day, Himanta Sarma said, “In the state’s path to peace, ULFA (I) is the last target left. It is not the same Assam as it was when the ULFA was formed. Today, the state is fast moving on the path of development. The government is working on poverty alleviation.”
“There has been a change in the mindset of people and this change should reflect in the ULFA (I), too. I appeal to them to return and work together for laying the foundation of a progressive Assam,” he said.
Himanta Sarma said he is not questioning anyone’s patriotism, but the new generation has the right to grow up in a peaceful environment.
While protecting the identity of the people is essential, Assam must also be able to grow at the same time, he maintained.
The Chief Minister also talked about the peace accords with Bodo, Karbi and Adivasi groups in the last few years, which has ensured “return of peace to the state”.
Referring to implementation of clauses of the Bodo peace accord, Himanta Sarma announced that villages with 80 per cent or more of its inhabitants in Dhekiajuli, Sootea, Gohpur and neighbouring areas will be brought under the Bodoland Territorial Region.
The hardliner faction ULFA (Independent), led by its ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Barua, has so far remained outside the peace parleys.
The outfit had called for boycott and a general strike against Republic Day celebrations, as it has done earlier as well.
Himanta Sarma also asserted that his government was working towards an all-round and inclusive growth of the state, while also making special efforts to place it prominently on the global map by highlighting the rich culture and heritage.
“We have been working relentlessly for development of our state in all sectors, be it social, cultural or economic,” the Chief Minister said.
To present the state’s rich culture before the world, a massive event is being planned on April 14, marking the Assamese new year, “when 10,000-15,000 ‘dhulias’ (drum players) and ‘nasonis’ (dancers) will assemble for a Bihu performance, aiming to enter the Guinness Book of World Records”, he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the event.
Himanta Sarma also announced a ₹ 300-crore project for the Kamakhya Temple to develop it into a top religious tourism destination.
He said the Assam government will continue to clear the encroached land of ‘Satras’ (Vaishnavite centres of learning) and forest areas, with a special drive to be soon launched to evict any illegal settlers from Burhasapori area in Kaziranga.
“It is heartening to note that wild elephants have returned to the Lumding reserve forest and rhinos to the Pava reserve forest soon after encroachments were cleared in these areas,” the chief minister said.
“Land rights to tribal people and indigenous dwellers will be ensured,” he said.
For youth empowerment, a new sports policy is likely to be announced by August 15, and a ‘khel mahasamaroh’ will also be organised during the year, he added.
“We will soon complete providing 1 lakh government jobs to the youth. The next fiscal’s state budget will have allocation of ₹ 300 crore for providing self-employment opportunities to the youth,” Himanta Sarma said.
He said poverty-alleviation programmes like ‘Orunudoi’ and cashless-medical treatment facilities will be expanded, and new schemes launched to ensure maximum coverage of beneficiaries.
The Chief Minister also announced remittance of sentence of 2,347 prisoners, who had not been convicted of heinous crimes like rape and dowry-related offences.