Guwahati: In view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation, Paresh Barua-led ULFA (Independent) has refrained from calling bandh on Republic Day for the first time in over two decades.

Welcoming the insurgent outfit’s gesture, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma hoped that such confidence-building measures may lead to a formal discussion between ULFA (I) and the Centre in the future.

In a statement emailed to the media, Barua said that ULFA (I) will not call for bandh or boycott of Republic Day celebrations keeping in view the COVID-19 situation.

He, however, criticised the Centre for celebrating the occasion with a five-day programme at a time when the country is reeling under the third wave of the pandemic.

Barua urged people to abstain from participating in programmes due to the pandemic and wear black badges on January 26 to register their protest against the celebration.

Reacting to the development, Sarma told reporters, “ULFA (I) chief Paresh Barua has refrained from calling bandh on Republic Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a welcome step. I think such confidence-building measures may lead to a formal discussion between the Centre and the outfit in the future.”

The chief minister had earlier this month urged the ULFA (I) to not call for bandh on Republic Day and appreciated the banned outfit for refraining from doing so on Independence Day last year.

Sarma, after taking oath on May 10 last year, had appealed to the ULFA (I) to come forward for peace talks and end the 42-year-old insurgency in the state.

The hardliner faction of the outfit had responded with a declaration of a unilateral ceasefire the same month for three months, which it has been extending since.

While terming the unilateral ceasefire a “positive step”, Sarma had said that the government has also reciprocated the gesture by not engaging in any “direct conflict” with the outfit in the last eight months.



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