ULFA wants top six leaders released for peace talks

Guwahati, May 28 (Calcutta Tube) The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Friday urged New Delhi to release its six top jailed leaders to pave way for peace talks to pull the curtains down on more than three decades of violent insurgency in the northeastern state of Assam.

‘Let the government create a conducive atmosphere for us to hold our general council meeting by releasing the jailed leaders so that a collective decision could be taken to take the peace process further,’ ULFA publicity chief Mithinga Daimary said in a statement.

Daimary’s statement comes after eight top ULFA leaders Friday met inside the Guwahati Central Jail, a move facilitated by the Assam government to initiate the deadlocked peace process.

Six ULFA leaders are in jail — chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka and ULFA political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

Daimary and vice chairman Pradeep Gogoi were given bail two months ago after the prosecution did not oppose their plea – a move seen as an attempt by the government to let the two leaders drum up public opinion for talks.

Friday’s meeting of the top ULFA leaders inside the jail comes in the wake of positive signals from New Delhi – Home Minister P.C. Chidambaram Tuesday said in Guwahati that the Assam government was given the nod to open talks with the group.

On Wednesday, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the state cabinet endorsed Chidambaram’s proposal and announced its decision to begin peace talks with the ULFA leadership.

‘We welcome the decision by the Assam cabinet to open talks with us,’ the ULFA statement said.

‘We know the government wants to also create an atmosphere for holding talks,’ the rebel leader said in the statement.

But the big question remains if the ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, believed to be hiding somewhere in Myanmar-China border area, would come for the peace talks.

‘We cannot wait indefinitely for Paresh Baruah to begin talks,’ Gogoi said.

‘If the government gives us a chance by releasing the jailed leaders, we would have a general council and decide on talks, but at no point did we say that talks could be held minus Paresh Baruah,’ Daimary said without clarifying if the outfit would sit for talks without its commander-in-chief.

The ULFA is fighting for an independent homeland since 1979.

More than 10,000 people have lost their lives in the insurgency during the past two decades.

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