Assam to initiate talks with ULFA, with or without Paresh
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Last Updated: Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 18:15
Guwahati: The Assam government on Wednesday decided to initiate the process of talks with the banned ULFA, irrespective of whether the group's 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua comes for negotiations or not.

In a meeting, the Cabinet agreed in principle to hold talks with the ULFA and the Centre was informed about it, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters here.

Yesterday, Home Minister P Chidambaram had given Gogoi a free hand to decide on matters relating to talks with ULFA.

"We have agreed only in principle to initiate talks with the ULFA and modalities are being worked out," he said, adding the majority of ULFA's 15-member central committee, six of whom are in judicial custody and two on bail, are in favour of talks.

"We wanted to include everybody in the talks, including Paresh Barua. We waited for sometime for him but we cannot wait indefinitely. If he comes well and good, but if he does not come we will proceed," Gogoi said, adding security operations to maintain law and order in the state would, however, continue.

Asked whether the jailed leaders would be released for talks to progress, he said "We will take a decision as the situation develops. We have only announced our decision for talks. Let us see the ULFA's response to it."

Gogoi said the people of Assam and the Citizens' Forum comprising intellectuals had already taken the initiative for the peace process. "Respecting their sentiments, we have decided to take the process forward. The state government has to play a major role in this. We know the ground realities. Of course, the Centre is always there to provide us with all help and support."

Asked whether the talks would be successful without Barua, he said, "We must make an effort. People want talks. Everybody want talks. We have to take the risk.

"We will now wait for ULFA's response and then proceed accordingly. Communication channels with ULFA are open and we will work out the modalities only after their response."

Talks would be held with ULFA as a whole and not with separate factions that have surrendered, he said, adding the cabinet decision was the most important one in his nine year-tenure in office.

To questions on whether ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, now in Bangladesh jail, would be handed over to India, he said "Frankly speaking, I have no knowledge about it."

Gogoi said said the issue of Maoist threat in the northeast was discussed with Chidambaram yesterday. "Maoists are trying to make their presence felt in the northeast but they have not been able to make much inroads."

The northeastern region, which has borders with Nepal, China and Bangladesh, is a vulnerable area for Maoist penetration. "We are maintaining strict vigil and will remain vigilant."


First Published: Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 18:15

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