Jailed ULFA leaders to discuss Chidambaram’s talks offer

Guwahati, Feb 1 (Calcutta Tube) The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Monday said it would discuss the offer made by Home Minister P.C.Chidambaram for peace talks with the jailed rebel leadership.

‘We shall have to discuss the matter and I, alone, cannot make any comment on the home minister’s offer. There has to be a conducive climate for talks and also a lot would depend on the government’s sincerity,’ jailed ULFA vice chairman Pradeep Gogoi told journalists while being taken to a local court.

Earlier in the day, the home minister said the government was ready to hold talks with the jailed ULFA leadership without the presence of the elusive Paresh Baruah, the outfit’s self-styled commander-in-chief.

‘Even if Paresh Baruah is not there, we cannot avoid waiting for talks to begin indefinitely. So I appeal to the ULFA leaders who are in custody now to come for talks,’ Chidambaram told journalists in New Delhi.

Already there are indications that seven top jailed leaders at the Guwahati Central Jail have agreed to hold peace talks with the government although they want to be freed from prison before opening formal negotiations.

Almost the entire top brass of the ULFA is now in jail – chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, vice chairman Gogoi, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, ‘foreign secretary’ Sasha Chouhdury, ‘finance secretary’ Chitraban Hazarika, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, and senior-most leader Bhimkanta Buragohain.

Buragohain, 70, is presently lodged at the Tezpur jail in northern Assam, while the other seven rebel leaders are at the Guwahati Central Jail.

The only top leader of the ULFA still at large is Paresh Baruah, while the outfit’s general secretary Anup Chetia is in a Bangladesh jail following his arrest in 1997.

The jailed ULFA leaders, including Rajkhowa, have been repeatedly saying that they were ready for talks but not in handcuffs – meaning they want to be released.

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