On Sunday as two top leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) — Raju Barua and Shashadhar Chowdhury — left the Sangam after spending two days at Mahakumbh, they said they prayed for “inner peace, as well as the success of peace talks with the Central Government”.
“We want peace in our region. But then, we ought to have our own inner peace. That is why we decided to come to Kumbh and spent some time among spiritual men,” Barua, the deputy commander-in-chief of ULFA, told The Indian Express. Both the leaders had stayed at the Kumbh Mela camp of Puri Shankaracharya Swami Adhokshyanand,
According to them, they took the holy dip twice and “offered prayers for the success of the talks”. “The talks are going in a positive direction,” added Barua. Even though the ban on the outfit as a terrorist organisation, that was invoked in 1990, continues, the Centre began peace talks with a delegation of ULFA leaders last year.
Chowdhury, the foreign secretary of the outfit, said there was a need to expedite the peace talks. “Both the state government, as well as the central government are moving towards an election year. After that, there may be change. Therefore, we want that the talks should reach their logical conclusion before that.”
Chowdhury added around 1,000 members of the ULFA are hopeful for a peaceful resolution of the talks. “People should realise that Assam’s problem is India’s problem, and it is our appeal that the talks be expedited,” added Barua.
For the past two days, the duo has been interacting with intellectuals and discussing the issues involving Assam and its relationship with “mainstream India”.
“They have interacted with about 100 intellectuals, including professors of various universities, doctors and lawyers in the last two days,” said Swami Adhokshyanand. The Shankaracharya added that a positive resolution of the peace talks will also have an impact on similar problems plaguing the region. “A positive message from these talks will help in handling issues like that of the Bodoland. A peaceful internal security situation is necessary if India is to emerge as a world power,” added Adhokshyanand. He said that he has been working for the past 15 years to bring the various “dischanted” groups and outfits to the talking table.
Asked as to how a religious leader got involved with peace talks, Adhokshyanand said: “The Adi Shankaracharya was the first one, who had taken up the task of uniting various parts of India. And he had set up the four peeths to ensure that if a situation arrives in future, these peeths would take up the same task once again. The Puri Shankaracharya is responsible for the region comprising modern day Assam, Orrisa, Bihar and West Bengal. I am only doing my job.”