Peace interlocutor meets ULFA leaders in Guwahati jail

Thursday, October 21, 2010

GUWAHATI - The deadlocked peace process between the government and the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) gathered momentum with New Delhi’s peace interlocutor P.C. Haldar Thursday holding a meeting with the top rebel leadership inside the Guwahati Central Jail.

Haldar met jailed ULFA leaders, including chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, and discussed modalities for formal peace talks.

It is true the peace process is gaining momentum now and all indications are positive, said Hiren Gohain, convenor of Citizens Forum, a group of civil society members brokering peace between the ULFA and the government.

Gohain also separately met the jailed ULFA leaders Thursday after Haldar’s meeting with the rebel leadership.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said peace talks with the ULFA could begin by December.

I have got the green signal from the prime minister and the home minister to go ahead with the process of bringing the ULFA leaders to the negotiating table. Maybe, by December we should get the talks process on, the chief minister told journalists.

Gogoi met the prime minister and the home minister earlier this week in New Delhi to discuss modalities for the ULFA peace talks.

More or less, almost all the ULFA leaders are positive insofar as holding peace talks, the chief minister said.

Barring ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit is now 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 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 opening peace talks.

The decks are being gradually cleared for the release on bail of three more jailed separatists - Raju Baruah, Pranati Deka and Bhimkanta Buragohain.

The bail applications of Deka and Buragohain were already granted by separate local courts although for technical reasons the duo are still in jail. But they are expected to be out in the next couple of days.

We want that Paresh Baruah should also come and join the peace process, but we cannot wait indefinitely for him and so we will start the peace talks, the chief minister said.

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