The United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) chief, Paresh Baruah, declined the peace overtures of religious leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a strongly worded message from his hideout somewhere in the China-Myanmar border and told the guru in no uncertain terms to ‘leave them alone’.
While on a visit to Assam this week, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of The Art of Living, had asked the Northeast militants to shun violence and join the mainstream. During a meditation camp organised in Guwahati on Thursday, Ravi Shankar had said that “Paresh Baruah is a good man” and he is trying to convince him “to pursue peace”. He had said his “heart goes out to” those who had suffered in decades-long militancy and that he has been working to rehabilitate militants.
In response, the militant group which has been fighting for a sovereign independent Assam since it’s inception in 1979, has hit back reiterating its stand of not responding to any peace talks unless the Government of India is willing to talk on the issue off ‘Assam’s independence'.
Baruah urged spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar “to stick to his pretentious religion” and let them “continue with their journey to freedom”.
Addressing Ravi Shankar through a media release, Baruah stated, “Our arms struggle for a sovereign Assam does not need any form of rehabilitation, demanding back our motherland which was forcefully occupied by Indian colonists is not a crime. We reject your offer of peace talks with the government of India, unless they are willing to take the independence of Assam into consideration and practice it in their constitution”.
The letter further stated, “You have raised concerns over our armed struggle. But we have picked up arms in order to protect ourselves and not to threaten any individual or sovereign nation. Our struggle will continue until the ultimate goal of 'freedom of Assam’ is achieved. Therefore, I urge you not to ask us to lay down our arms in the hope of your empty promises."
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, expressed his government’s intention of entering into an agreement with Art of Living Foundation for “meaningful and purposeful rehabilitation of the surrendered militants in Assam”. A total of Rs 8.53 crores have been released by the centre from 2013—2016 for this purpose. More than ten thousand militants across Northeast have laid down their arms in the last one decade. The spiritual leader has apparently influenced many of them to take the path to peace.
The chief minister also requested the spiritual leader to conduct courses in all the 31 prisons in Assam. At present, the Art of Living Foundation conducts courses in 10 prisons across the state.