People defy boycott call to celebrate I-Day in northeast


Guwahati : Thousands of people across the northeast Saturday defied a shutdown called by separatists and celebrated India’s Independence Day, officials said.

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“It is heartening to see people attending Independence Day functions despite calls by some militant groups to boycott the celebrations,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said after unfurling the national flag here.

Five separatist guerrilla groups in the region have called for a 17-hour general strike Saturday to boycott the Independence Day, even as the security forces were put on maximum alert.

“There is an open defiance to the boycott call in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur. People participated in large numbers in the celebrations,” an official said.

The militant groups that called for a boycott were the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), fighting for a separate homeland comprising parts of Assam and West Bengal, the Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF), an umbrella group of several Manipuri rebel groups, and the Tripura People’s Democratic Front (TPDF).

Militant groups in the northeast have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi’s rule over the region.

“Violence is not an answer to any of the problems. We once again appeal to groups like ULFA and the NDFB to come for peace talks,” Gogoi said in his Independence Day speech in Guwahati.

The chief ministers in Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura also appealed to rebel groups to come for peace talks with the government.

“Our doors for talks with militant groups are open. Problems can be resolved through negotiations and not through the barrel of the gun,” Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said.

There are some 30 rebel groups operating in the region, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.