Govt holds peace talks with ULFA, says "tangible progress"

The top leadership of ULFA held talks with the government and discussed various aspects of its `charter of demands`.

New Delhi: The government said there was tangible progress in its meeting with top leadership of ULFA on Monday as peace talks resumed here after a break of six months, discussing the outfit`s `charter of demands` to find a lasting solution to the three-decade-old insurgency in Assam.

During the 90-minute meeting, the ULFA delegation, led by its `chairman` Arabinda Rajkhowa, discussed with Union Home Secretary RK Singh and other officials their demands and resolved to carry forward the dialogue process.

"It was a very constructive and fruitful discussion. I think we have achieved very good progress in the meeting," Union Home Secretary RK Singh told reporters here.

Rajkhowa echoed a similar sentiment saying the dialogue was "very satisfactory".

"We discussed all issues concerning Assam`s peace and development. We all agreed to carry forward the dialogue process," Rajkhowa told reporters.

A Home Ministry statement said "there was tangible progress in the talks. Both sides were satisfied with the progress made....Noting the tangible progress in talks with ULFA, Union Home Secretary stated that he would review the progress of talks with ULFA periodically".

Asked about the issues which figured in the talks, the Home Secretary said the ULFA team raised issues like "safe guard" to the indigenous people of Assam but a detailed discussion on it and issues like Centre-state relations would be taken up in the next round of dialogue.

The Centre`s pointsman for the ULFA talks PC Haldar has been asked to hold further meetings with the banned group to discuss some aspects in details.

Observance of ground rules for ceasefire signed by both sides, surrender of arms and ammunition and total halt of operations by security forces against the pro-talk faction were some of the other issues which were discussed, sources said.

The meeting discussed various aspects of the group`s `charter of demands` which sought amendment in the Constitution for finding "meaningful" ways to protect the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam.

The meeting, which was also attended by representatives of the Assam government, also deliberated in detail on various aspects of the ground rules of the Suspension of Operations.

ULFA `Foreign Secretary` Sashadhar Choudhury said "all contentious" issues were discussed in the talks.

He said they have asked the government to bring back ULFA `general secretary` Anup Chetia currently lodged in a jail in Dhaka.

"A breakthrough on Chetia`s return is expected soon," Choudhury said without elaborating.

In its `charter of demands`, ULFA demanded a change of rules and law and said a solution to their demands was not possible under the provisions of the existing Constitution.

Among other demands of the group include discussion on grounds for "ULFA`s struggle and their genuineness", status report on missing ULFA leaders and cadres numbering around 50 including those missing since 2005 when Bhutan government had conducted offensives, and other socio-economic issues.


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