An Assam Cabinet minister apologising to the banned insurgent outfit ULFA(Independent) for his remarks against its chief has drawn sharp reactions from Opposition parties, with the BJP leader finding scant support from his own party leaders.
While the Congress and the AIUDF have claimed that seeking forgiveness from an outlawed outfit is like ‘surrender’ and ‘kneeling’ before it, BJP legislators have been cautious in their comments about the matter.
The ULFA(I) had on Saturday issued a statement demanding an apology from Tea Tribes and Employment minister Sanjoy Kishan for his purported remarks against the outfit’s chief, Paresh Barua, terming him a ‘liar’.
The group threatened that it would ensure ‘boycott’ of the minister in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts if he failed to issue an apology within 24 hours. The outfit is considered to have some clout in these two eastern districts of the state.
Kishan, who represents Tinsukia in the state Assembly, on Sunday told reporters that he had not said anything with the intention of ‘hurting’ Barua and if he had done so unknowingly, he sought forgiveness for it.
Soon after this, the ULFA(I) issued another statement withdrawing its ‘boycott’ threat of the BJP leader.
“I don’t think there is another instance in the history of Assam when a minister said sorry to an outlawed group. It is like surrendering before it,” Congress working president Kamalakshya Dey Purkayastha told PTI.
If Kishan did not have the courage to stand by his statement, he should not have made it, Purkayastha added.
The Congress MLA said that the government should work towards ensuring industrialisation and development of the state so that outlawed outfits cannot lure youths to them.
AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam also condemned Kishan’s act and claimed that it is tantamount to “kneeling before a banned group”.
“These people (ministers) are lying to the public every minute by not keeping their promises to them, but they are not apologising for it. They should be afraid of the public rather than of a banned group,” he said.
“It can’t be accepted, coming from a responsible minister,” Islam added.
Reacting to the development, BJP MLA Prasanta Phukan said, “He (Kishan) may be a minister, but he is also a human being. It was perhaps a slip of the tongue. It is good that he has apologised for it rather than dragging on the matter.”
Another legislator of the saffron party, Sushanta Borgohain, was less defensive of Kishan over the issue.
“We are representatives of the people and sworn by the Constitution. We should be able to discharge our responsibilities with courage while staying within the ambit of the Constitution,” he said.
BJP MLA Diganta Kalita said Kishan should have consulted the chief minister before commenting on such a sensitive issue.
The ULFA(I) has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the government since May last year, soon after the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government assumed office.