Wooing The 7 Sisters

PRIME ministerial trips are becoming a common occurrence in the Northeast these days. Last week Prime Minister I.K. Gujral made his maiden visit to the region. While his predecessor, H.D. Deve Gowda, had during his week-long tom of all the seven states last October announced a Rs 6,100-crore economic package, Gujral concentrated on reviewing the progress of earlier initiatives.

On landing at Dibrugarh in upper Assam on May 19, the prime minister appealed to insurgent groups in the region, especially the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), to accept the government’s offer for negotiations. “I appeal to the youths of this region td eschew violence and accept our offer of unconditional talks. Peace brings development, investment, jobs and opportunity to all,” Gujral said repeatedly throughout his five-day tour. The repetition was more than warranted, for the biggest obstacle hampering peace in the region is the recalcitrance of militant groups.