Guwahati | January 20, 2006 8:15:07 PM IST
At least six separatist groups in India’s northeast Friday called a 17-hour general strike Jan 26 to protest the Republic Day celebrations.
Troops have already taken up positions at vulnerable areas across the northeast, and are conducting aerial surveillance over vital installations. "We are not taking any chances and are prepared to thwart all plans by militants to sabotage the Republic Day celebrations," said an army commander engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Assam.
A joint statement by the six rebel groups said: "For us this is the day (Jan 26) when the constitution of India was imposed on us 56 years ago, legalising Indian colonial occupation in the region.
"Therefore, in the above spirit for unity, this solidarity statement calls upon all the freedom loving peoples of the region to boycott India’s Republic Day and also to prevent any such celebrations from being held in our region."
Among the militant groups party to the strike call were the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Tripura People’s Democratic Front (TPDF), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK).
The statement said the strike would be from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan 26 in the states of Assam, Manipur and Tripura.
Rebel groups in Meghalaya and Nagaland have not called for a boycott and Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh do not have any insurgency problem now.
Militants in the insurgency-hit northeast have for years been boycotting the Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations to protest New Delhi’s rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea and timber.
The run-up to the events has usually been violent, with rebels striking at vital installations like crude oil pipelines, trains, roads and rail bridges, besides targeting the security forces.
On Thursday, police in Assam arrested three ULFA rebels with arms and ammunition from the state’s main city Guwahati and claimed they were part of a team sent by group’s leadership to create violence.
Last year, rebels triggered two powerful blasts at the main Republic Day parade in Guwahati though no one died.