Talks with PM on ULFA today evening

A meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Assam-based Citizen`s Forum to explore possibilities for peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has been rescheduled for Monday evening.

Last Updated: Jun 21, 2010, 15:45 PM IST

Guwahati: A meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Assam-based Citizen`s Forum to explore possibilities for peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has been rescheduled for Monday evening.

"The meeting is now rescheduled at 6.45 p.m. We have been conveyed about the fresh timing from the Prime Minister`s Office (PMO)," Hiren Gohain, convenor of the Citizen`s Forum, said.

A six-member group of the newly-formed Forum was scheduled to meet Manmohan Singh at his residence at 10.30 a.m. The sudden postponement led to fair amount of confusion and speculations.

The Forum, an 11-member committee comprising academics, writers, retired police and army officers, rights leaders, and intellectuals, was formed in April and claims the support of at least 100 civil society and other ethnic groups.

The Forum in April held a citizen`s conclave and resolved to broker peace between the government and the ULFA to put the curtains down to more than three decades of violent insurgency in Assam.

"Most of the jailed ULFA leaders are for peace talks and that is the impression we got during our meetings with them," Gohain said.

"We would convey the desire of the people of Assam for bringing an end to the ULFA problem by way of peace talks and also the willingness of a majority of their leaders who are in jail."

The ULFA is waging a war for independence since 1979 and has always maintained that talks if any should revolve around their main demand of sovereignty.

The Forum had earlier sought the release of all jailed ULFA leaders to enable them to hold the outfit`s general council meeting to take a decision regarding holding peace talks with the government.

Barring ULFA`s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit is in jail. The imprisoned leaders include chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, `finance secretary` Chitrabon Hazarika, `cultural secretary` Pranati Deka, and ULFA political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

Two other leaders - ULFA vice chairman Pradip Gogoi and publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, are currently out on bail and engaged in drumming up public support for peace talks.

Almost all the jailed leaders, including the ULFA chairman, expressed their willingness for peace talks, but want their release from prison.

Both the central and state governments had earlier rejected holding talks with the ULFA on the issue of sovereignty, but said they were ready for unconditional talks.

The Forum was formed after Pradip Gogoi and Mithinga Daimary met leading citizens in the state and appealed for their help in furthering the deadlocked peace process

IANS