Jailed ULFA leaders could be freed: Gogoi

Guwahati, Feb 19 (IANS) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Friday hinted at releasing jailed leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for peace talks, aimed at bringing an end to three decades of violent insurgency in the state.

‘I also know that there cannot be talks with handcuffs on and would surely want negotiations with dignity and honour and hence we are working out strategies for meaningful talks although I cannot spell out everything at this point in time,’ the chief minister told journalists.

Gogoi was reacting to demands by jailed ULFA leaders to free them from prison to open peace talks with New Delhi.

‘We want a permanent solution to the problem and definitely holding talks with the ULFA leadership is high on our priority list,’ the chief minister said.

Eight top ULFA leaders are currently in various jails, seven of them in Guwahati – the outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, vice chairman Pradeep Gogoi, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, and ULFA political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

‘We want that all the ULFA leaders, including commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah should come and join the peace talks but if he doesn’t come we will not wait for him indefinitely and still start the peace talks,’ the chief minister said.

Modalities for the proposed peace talks would be worked out soon.

‘The home minister (P. Chidambaram) has asked me to come to New Delhi for discussions and very soon we will come out with some positive news,’ Gogoi said.

The jailed ULFA leaders have been reiterating their demand for freeing them from jail in the interest of peace talks.

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