No regrets, I’ll continue peace efforts with ULFA: Goswami

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS

Guwahati : Assamese writer Indira Goswami says even though her creative work has suffered and she has been criticised for trying to broker peace between the central government and the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), she has no regrets and will continue her efforts.

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"I tried my best although I failed to achieve what I expected. But I don't have any regrets though I faced a lot of criticism from various quarters in my efforts to bring around the ULFA leadership for peace talks with the Indian government," Goswami told IANS in an interview.

"I shall continue with my efforts for peace and am ready to do everything possible within my limits," Goswami said.

A recipient of the Jnanpith award, one of India's highest literary honours, she has been for the last three years the key link between the ULFA and New Delhi with the rebel outfit formally entrusting her with the task of opening exploratory peace talks. She held several rounds of meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Delhi University professor in modern Indian languages was in constant touch with Paresh Baruah and Arabinda Rajkhowa on telephone although she has never met the two top ULFA leaders.

"I was very sincere in my efforts and believed that whatever I was doing was for the good of the state. It had hurt me a lot when there was criticism for my role as a facilitator to bring the ULFA for talks," said Goswami, a prominent scholar of the Ramayana.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and several others in his cabinet had berated her in public for being soft towards the ULFA – an allegation she denies. Her efforts at bringing the ULFA leadership for direct talks with New Delhi had almost fructified but certain preconditions set by both the sides led to the fragile peace initiative collapsing in September last year.

"The situation is a little bit tough now with both the ULFA and the government sticking to conditions and preconditions for talks," said the exuberant writer matter-of-factly, her eyes dramatically rimmed with kohl.

She candidly admits that her creative pursuits took a beating when she busied herself in brokering peace. "My writing has suffered in the last three years, but having said that I don't regret it," she said.

Now she is back to doing what she is best known for – writing.

"Right now I am bogged down in the process of writing a real life story on a tribal Bodo woman martyr named Thengtankri. I am gathering material for the book."

The book, she said, would delve into the sacrifice made by Thengtankri, a revenue collector during the British rule in Assam, to eradicate social evils like bride burning. "The book will be translated into many languages."

Despite her failure at brokering peace, she is optimistic.

"I am an optimist and believe peace will dawn in Assam. Violence cannot fulfil grievances and is not a solution. It is through negotiations and dialogues that any problem can be resolved," said Goswami.