New Delhi: Top ULFA leaders on Friday met Home
Minister P Chidambaram and presented the outfit`s `charter of
demands`, setting the ball rolling for peace talks with the
government to bring about a lasting solution to Assam`s
three-decade old insurgency problem.
During the 40-minute meeting, which was also attended by
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, a seven-member ULFA team
led by its `chairman` Arabinda Rajkhowa presented the demands,
contents of which were not available immediately.
However, sources said, ULFA has already given up its
demand for a "sovereign state" and is likely to press for more
autonomy, special status for Assam and other safeguards for
the people there under the Constitution.
Gogoi described today`s meeting as a significant step in
bringing peace in Assam and said both state and central
governments were sincere about finding a peaceful solution to
"If necessary, we may have to change law. But we must
find a peaceful solution under the Constitution," he said.
The sources said the meeting will give fresh impetus to
the peace process as the charter of demands will be the basis
of the dialogue with the ULFA.
This will be ULFA`s first formal peace negotiation with
the government in its 32-year-old history.
So far, only preliminary talks between the ULFA and
Centre`s interlocutor P C Haldar have been held in Guwahati.
Rajkhowa and others are understood to have asked the
government to bring back its `general secretary` Anup Chetia,
who is in detention in Bangladesh since 1997, to facilitate
his participation in the peace talks.
"Anup Chetia should be brought back to India so that he
can take part in the talks," Rajkhowa had said yesterday after
Chetia is likely to be deported from Bangladesh as a
major confidence-building measure ahead of Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh`s visit to Dhaka early next month.
Rajkhowa had also expressed optimism about the dialogue
process to bring a political solution to their demands.
Last month, the ULFA had issued a statement saying
they will give up violence, suspend all operations and would
like to begin talks.
Representatives of central and state governments and
ULFA will take part in future meetings, the sources said.
Rajkhowa and other members of the group had
`introductory` talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and
Chidambaram in February.
However, the group`s elusive `commander-in-chief` Paresh
Baruah has been opposed to any dialogue with the government if
`sovereignty` issue is not on the table.