GUWAHATI, India (AFP) - Representatives of a powerful rebel group will meet India’s national security advisor next month to try and end a decades-old insurgency in the northeast, an official said.
The announcement came as suspected rebels blew up a power station in eastern Assam state, badly wounding three policemen, the latest in a string of explosions to shake the state ahead of India’s Republic Day celebrations.
The talks will be the second round of talks between the national government and the negotiating team named by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), fighting since 1979 for an independent Assamese homeland.
"The national security advisor’s office has intimated the dates for the next round of talks" to the leader of the ULFA-appointed negotiating team, Assam state’s Home Commissioner B.K. Gohain told AFP on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s attack on the power station knocked out electricity in the area, a police spokesman said, adding that a hand grenade had been hurled at a police station outside Assam’s main city, Guwahati, but that no one was injured.
The attacks were the latest in a wave of bombing that began Friday by suspected ULFA militants which has left two people killed and 26 injured. ULFA traditionally makes no comment on violent incidents.
The surge in attacks, mainly targetting power installations and government buildings, comes ahead of celebrations Thursday marking India’s Republic Day.
Meanwhile, Indira Goswami, leader of the negotiating team known as the People’s Consultative Group, said the planned talks would begin February 7 but that "the modalities of the negotiations are yet to be worked out."
The government in New Delhi declined to comment on the meeting.
"The talks will primarily try and work out a mutually acceptable peace process leading to formal declaration of a ceasefire between the ULFA and the central government," Goswami, an Assamese writer, told AFP.
The first round of talks was held in New Delhi in October and led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
ULFA is one of the most organized militant groups in India’s northeast, home to over 30 rebel organisations whose demands range from autonomy to secession. At least 15,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam since 1979.
The rebel groups accuse New Delhi of plundering the region’s rich oil and timber resources and neglecting the local economy.