Formal talks with ULFA likely to begin next month

With the return of the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam, the nascent peace process in the state has received a big boost and formal talks with banned outfit ULFA are likely to begin next month.

Last Updated: May 15, 2011, 10:27 AM IST

New Delhi: With the return of the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam, the nascent peace process in the state has received a big boost and formal talks with banned outfit ULFA are likely to begin next month.

The Centre is also arranging a meeting between a top leader of the pro-talk faction of ULFA and the outfit`s general secretary Anup Chetia, currently lodged in a jail in Bangladesh, ostensibly to get his consent for the dialogue.

Government officials said the Centre`s interlocutor PC Halder was in regular touch with the ULFA leaders, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram in February and expressed their willingness to engage in dialogue.

"The formal talks will be beginning by June. Initially,
we will take up issues like setting up of designated camps,
security of cadres, surrender of arms and livelihood issues.
In the later stages, more substantive issues will be taken up
for discussion," an official said.

Gogoi`s return to power is a boost to the peace process
as there will be continuity, he said.

The Home Ministry has also suggested that the Assam
government set up nine designated camps for the cadres of the
pro-talk ULFA. Out of these, two camps will be set up in
Nalbari district, where most of the ULFA leaders are taking
shelter.

In the absence of designated camps, ULFA leaders like
Sasha Chaudhury, Raju Baruah, Mithinga Daimari are living
either in rented houses or their own houses.

Before the talks, one of the top leaders of the outfit
will travel to Dhaka to meet Chetia to brief him about the
initiatives taken by them to bring lasting peace in Assam and
get his consent for it.

"A meeting with Chetia in the Dhaka jail is being
arranged. We are in the process of getting passport and visa
for the ULFA leader who will visit Bangladesh," the official
said.

If Chetia comes on board, it will further isolate the
outfit`s `commander`in-chief` Paresh Baruah, who is
steadfastly opposed to any peace dialogue with the Centre.

The ULFA is now studying the `charter of demands`
prepared by the Sanmilta Jatiya Abhibartan (SJA), an umbrella
body of civil society organisations of Assam, before
submitting its own `charter of demands` to the Central
government during the dialogue process.

The SJA charter demands Constitutional amendments to
give Assam greater control over its own future through
strengthening the state`s power to control the revenues
generated there, the natural resources, and the planning
process and ensure a secure demographic situation as well as
accelerated and balanced development.

PTI