ULFA demands constitutional amendment at talks

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 21:13

New Delhi: A charter of demands of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which includes constitutional amendments to provide Assam greater control over its natural resources, was discussed on Tuesday with a Central government team led by Home Secretary RK Singh during peace talks here.

"It was a very positive meeting. We have had a point-by-point discussion on our charter of demands," ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who led the six-member team of his outfit, told reporters after the 90-minute talks held at the North Block office of the Union Home Ministry.

This is the second round of talks between ULFA and the Centre, after a ceasefire was agreed to early this year.

"We hope that the positive attitude of the central government will continue and help in finding an amicable solution to our demands," he added after the closed-door talks.

PC Haldar, the interlocutor between the two sides, and senior officials of the ministry were also present.

The next round of talks would be held in November, officials sources said.

The Centre told the ULFA team that their demand will be discussed in detail in the next round when officials from different ministries would take part, sources said.

However, the ULFA leaders were non-committal about the surrender of their arms. Sashadhar Choudhury, self-styled foreign secretary of the ULFA, said: "We have not attended the peace talks with our arms. We are also not going to tell you where our cadres have kept the arms."

He said the planned camps, `abanirman kendras`, to provide designated shelter to the ULFA cadres, were not ready so far.

The charter of demands includes constitutional amendments to give Assam greater control over its natural resources, revenue generation, participation in the planning process, ensuring a secure demographic situation, besides accelerated and balanced development.

The minutes of the meeting will be notified in the gazette, official sources said.

ULFA and the Central government entered into a ceasefire earlier this year after the rebel leadership was released on bail.

On September 3, the ULFA had signed a "suspension of Operation" pact with the government.

Rajkhowa had led an eight-member ULFA team during introductory talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram in February.

ULFA, one of the biggest rebel outfits in the tea and oil-rich region of Assam, has fought for an independent homeland for Assamese since 1979.

At least 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Assam because of fighting between government forces and rebels in the past three decades.

The much-hyped talks hit a major roadblock with ULFA`s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah rejecting the initiative.

Baruah, said to be hiding in the Myanmar-China border area, in an e-mail statement said: "We cannot support the peace talks as the ULFA leadership led by Rajkhowa is under the influence of our enemy (government)."

But the ULFA chairman maintains that Paresh Baruah is not opposed to the peace talks.


First Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 09:17

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