Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma welcome ULFA-I’s ceasefire declaration, says it will boost peace.. Image Source: IANS News

Guwahati, May 18 : Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday welcomed the unilateral ceasefire announced by outlawed ULFA-I, terming it a positive development and a renewed boost to peace and tranquillity in the state.

He said that the government's doors are always open if the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) desires to join the peace process.

"Nevertheless, there is hope in the unilateral ceasefire announced by ULFA-I and this must be considered in good stead," Sarma told media after meeting the parents and wife of abducted ONGC engineer Ritul Saikia at Titabor in Jorhat district and assuring them all efforts are on to ensure his safe release.

Urging ULFA-I 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah to shun violence and join the path of peace, the Chief Minister, who also holds charge of the Home Department, said that people of Assam do not want incidents like grenade blast at Tingrai or abduction of Saikia, but they want peace.

"ULFA-I did not call the ceasefire in consultation with the government and if discussion is to be carried forward, there is a need to frame certain ground rules," he added.

Sarma told the reporters that as per state government sources, Saikia is at India-Myanmar border and in good health. "State government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure his safe return." The ULFA-I had, on April 21, had kidnapped three engineers of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation from a drilling site at Lakwa in eastern Assam's Sibsagar district. The Army, along with Assam Rifles troopers, rescued two hostages from the militants following a fierce firefight on April 23 night, but Saikia still remained in the captivity of the banned outfit.

Sarma, after taking oath as Chief Minister on May 10, urged the ULFA-I, and other militant groups to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream.The outlawed outfit on Saturday announced a unilateral ceasefire for three months with immediate effect.

In a statement, it said that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has "unilaterally suspended all kinds of military operations in Assam for three months from May 15". The statement, in Assamese language, also alleged that the security forces had hatched a clandestine plan to malign the ULFA-I. After 2006, this is the second time the anti-talk banned outfit has announced a unilateral ceasefire in the state.

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