An Assam minister has been under vitriolic attacks from his own party and the Opposition after his public admission about paying money to banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).
The state’s water resources minister, Rajib Lochan Pegu, admitted at a public meeting in Majuli that many Congressmen in the island were forced to pay the militant group out of fear. “Even I had to pay them up. I did this out of fear,” said Pegu.
It is not new that a section of the lawmakers and political parties in the region allegedly often pay the myriad militant groups out of fear. In this case, the minister may have spoken the truth but it has not gone down well.
An angry chief minister Tarun Gogoi said a minister uttering such words did not deserve to be a minister. “I don’t know what exactly he had said. But if he indeed said so, he did a wrong and doesn’t deserve to be a minister,” Gogoi told journalists. His comments assume significance given a possible cabinet reshuffle. It is speculated that the minister would be dropped.
Opposition party Asom Gana Parishad also took strong exception to the minister’s assertion.
“We demand legal action against the minister after his public admission about paying money to a terror organisation,” a spokesperson of the party said.
The BJP said it was evident from the minister’s comments that the Congress in the state was hand in glove with the militants.
“If innocent people could be tortured and jailed for offering food and giving shelter to militants, why is action not being taken against the minister,” BJP leader Sarbananda Sonowal asked.
The Assam Public Works, an NGO, asked the government to prove its sincerity by taking action against the minister. “It is established once more that Congress grabs power by paying up the Ulfa and taking its help,” APW leader Abhijit Sarma said.