Talks soon with ULFA: Interlocuter Haldar

Friday, December 17, 2010

GUWAHATI - The much-hyped peace talks between the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the central government are expected to begin soon with both sides Friday expressing optimism about bringing the curtains down on one of India’s longest running insurgencies in Assam.

I sincerely hope the dialogue process with the ULFA would begin soon, maybe in the next few weeks, with both the government and the ULFA leadership sincerely approaching the issue, New Delhi’s peace interlocutor P.C. Haldar told journalists.

Haldar earlier Friday met ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa for nearly an hour at the Guwahati Central Jail to work out the modalities for opening peace talks.

I see no hurdle in beginning the dialogue process as of now, Haldar said.

The ULFA chairman echoed similar views and expressed optimism at the way things are moving towards formal peace talks beginning.

I am 100 percent confident we are on right track and determined to hold talks and find a solution, Rajkhowa told journalists Friday while being brought to a hospital from the jail for a routine check up.

The ULFA chairman apart, two more ULFA leaders are in jail - self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury and finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika.

Rajkhowa, in all likelihood, is expected to be released on bail next week with the government prosecutor Thursday not objecting to the bail petition of the separatist leader, a step seen as attempt to pave the way for peace talks.

Once out of jail, I would go and meet the people of Assam and then the peace talks would begin, the ULFA chairman said.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Friday said the government was ready to walk the extra mile to pave the way for initiating the dialogue process - even to the extent of providing safe passage to the ULFA militants to come to celebrate Magh Bihu or the harvest festival next month.

We are ready to consider sympathetically all issues and are even agreeable to proposals for safe passage if that helps in the peace process, the chief minister said.

I am happy to announce that the peace process is on track and very positive.

Barring ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit was in jail. The imprisoned leaders included chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, vice chairman Pradip Gogoi, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, and political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

But with demands for releasing the jailed ULFA leaders gathering momentum to pave the way for holding peace talks, the government embarked on a strategy not to oppose the bail applications of the separatists in court.

The process began and one by one five top jailed ULFA leaders were already released on bail - the government prosecutor not objecting to their bail applications in court.

The first to be released on bail were Pradeep Gogoi and Mithinga Daimary, followed by Raju Baruah and Pranati Deka, and last week the veteran Bhimkanta Buragohain. Rajkhowa is likely to step to freedom next week.

ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, however, is in Bangladesh since his arrest there in 1997.

There are chances of Chetia now being extradited to India to help him take part in the proposed peace talks due to start soon once the three remaining jailed leaders are released on bail.

Filed under: Terrorism

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