PM flexible on initiating ULFA talks, says Assam CM

Himalayan News Service

Guwahati, June 10:

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has agreed to adopt a flexible stance on the government opening talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said. “The prime minister is ready to do whatever possible to initiate the peace process,” Gogoi said on telephone from New Delhi today. “We are happy to find the central government so very sincere in opening talks with the ULFA and hope to see a breakthrough soon,” he said. Gogoi met the prime minister and India’s National Security Adviser MK Narayanan in New Delhi last night to discuss the ULFA demand for the release of some of its jailed guerrilla leaders as a precondition for holding peace talks with the government. “I am told the central government will respond to ULFA’s demand only after it receives a formal reply to a letter from the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) inviting the rebel leadership for peace talks,” Gogoi said.

The letter signed by Narayanan was handed over last fortnight to noted Assamese writer Indira Goswami, formally inviting the ULFA leadership to come for talks aimed at ending close to three decades of violent insurgency in the region. Goswami had been sought by ULFA to mediate for peace talks with the central government. “I believe ULFA leadership has received the letter by now and am sure they will respond very soon,” Goswami said on telephone from New Delhi. Last week, the outlawed group, which has been fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979, demanded the release of four jailed leaders as a precondition

for talks with the government. “Let them (ULFA) first respond to New Delhi’s letter and from our side we have already committed to removing all obstacles to the pave the way for holding talks,” Gogoi said. Gogoi had earlier announced his government was prepared to "walk the extra mile" to facilitate holding of talks with the ULFA. “We have no problems in releasing jailed ULFA leaders if that helps in ushering peace in the region.”

ULFA leaders ‘not to jump parole’ if released for talks

GUWAHATI: Top jailed ULFA leaders in Assam say they will not jump parole if the

government frees them to facilitate holding of peace talks with New Delhi. “If the government is sincere in its intentions of bringing in peace, they should release us to pave the way for holding talks,” ULFA vice chairman Pradip Gogoi said outside a local court in Guwahati. “We are not going to flee or repeat the strategy that we adopted in the past.” In 1992, five senior jailed ULFA leaders were freed and taken to New Delhi for initiating talks with then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao. After holding one round of talks, the leaders jumped parole.

“The situation then was quite different from now with the people of Assam clamouring for peace and our leadership, too, is equally keen to resolve the conflict through negotiations," the ULFA leader said. “Our (ULFA) constitution clearly states no important political decision can be taken without a quorum in the central executive. It will be in the interests of peace that the government first release us from jail,” said top woman ULFA leader Pranati Deka. — HNS