Union Home Minister Rajth Singh did well to make a categorical statement on Monday that while doors were open for talks with militant groups, the Centre was prepared for talks only with militants who did not indulge in violence or indiscrimite killing of innocent people. “Doors are open for discussions. We are open to talks but under no circumstances can we have dialogue with militants who indulge in violence,” he said, addressing the closing ceremony of the 19th tiol Youth Festival at Guwahati. Perhaps there was need to be a little more specific about what kind of violence the Home Minister had in mind, considering that virtually all militants in the Northeast are armed and into some kind of violent activities. Even those who are not into indiscrimite killings, are into other kinds of violence such as abductions, extortion and holding hostages to ransom for huge amounts demanded for their release. However, there is very little scope for confusion regarding his statement about militants “who indulge in violence”. Since his reference to militant groups was in the context of the mindless killings by the NDFB(S) on December 23, 2014, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was actually referring to militant outfits that resorted to the kind of carge that the tion witnessed on that day. Be that as it may, the Union Home Minister’s statement of Monday made it abundantly clear that the present opportunistic practice of indulging in terrorism and then demanding peace talks with the Centre was a game that could not be played any longer.
Militancy and terrorism in the Northeast have been marked by the rather bizarre expectation of terrorists and potential terrorists that in a land blighted by an almost total lack of industrial development and a high rate of unemployment, terrorism could well be turned into an industry or business of sorts. All that one had to do was to pay some existing terrorist group a kind of entry fee to get enlisted as a cadre of the outfit, get rudimentary training in the use of arms, get arms allotted and then go out for the lucrative game of extortion. At some point, the terrorist outfit could make demands on the Centre for peace talks and rehabilitation in the so–called mainstream. Most militants and terrorists had no real concern for the people or any ideology that they were fighting for. Even so, they believed that they were entitled to peace talks and the benefits that accrued to militants who surrendered after having taken to arms. In other words, youths who had never taken to arms as a means of opposition to the existing government had no possibilities of securing employment even with the necessary qualifications. On the other hand, those young men who had no hopes of even getting admission to colleges on the strength of their performance at the school fil examitions not to speak of employment in any organization, were trying to create for themselves a situation whereby merely the ‘virtue’ of having taken up arms and later surrendered them, they were in a position to demand jobs or other economic advantages not available to those who had never taken to arms. This is a perverse and bizarre dispensation that no sensible person can be expected to accept. We are already familiar with the kind of economic opportunism forcibly stched by ULFA cadres who had surrendered in 1992 on the offer of a general amnesty. Not only did they retain some of their clandestine weapons, but they also maged to secure soft loans from banks (generally for starting liquor shops) that they never repaid. Eventually, their guarantor, the Assam government, was obliged to repay these loans.
We are happy that Union Home Minister Rajth Singh has made it clear that the Centre will not consider peace talks with militant groups like the NDFB(S) that took a toll of over 80 innocent lives on December 23, 2014. However, nothing has been said so far by the Home Minister about how the Centre proposes to treat other militants engaged in kidpping and extortion that use militancy as a bargaining chip to secure employment beyond the reach of the more qualified and peace–loving youths in the State. We would request the Union Home Minister also to put an end to such opportunistic adventurism that is actually leader–centric and does great injustice to the peace–loving and law–abiding youths of the State.