ULFA-Centre talks on February 10
Guwahati, February 5 (PTI): The banned ULFA today announced unconditional peace talks with the Centre on February 10 in New Delhi to find an amicable solution to their 31-year-long armed struggle. Terming the first round of talks as a “courtesy call”, senior ULFA leader Sasadhar Choudhury told reporters here that the outfit “would like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be present during the talks on Thursday as he represents Assam in Parliament”.
Asked whether ULFA’s core demand of ‘sovereignty for Assam’ would be discussed, Choudhury avoiding a direct reply said, “We have decided to go for unconditional talks. Through talks, the process for resolution of Assam’s problems will be started.” “Respecting the wishes of the people of Assam and the Jatiya Abhibartan (intellectuals), we have decided to go for talks,” he said.
ULFA is yet to select its leaders to participate in the discussions. “Though the ULFA’s agenda for the meeting has not yet been worked out, it will have all the problems of Assam,” he said. The decision to hold peace talks with the Centre was taken at the ULFA’s executive committee and general council meetings this week, he added. After being pressed, Choudhury said, “Talks will not be held if the sovereignty issue is raised again by us. We are ready for unconditional talks.”
Asked if the ULFA had dropped the demand, he said, “Due to the situation in the state in 1979 we wanted sovereignty for Assam. ULFA was born and we went out to carry on our struggle. Now we shall have to do what the people of Assam want”. “Our charter of demands is being prepared. We will let the people of Assam know what they are. We will carry the opinions of all sections of people in the state,” the ULFA leader said. “Our agenda will, however, definitely focus on what is the best option for the solution to the socio-political problems of the state”, he said.
“The success of the talks will depend on the sincerity of the central government and the wishes of people of Assam. The modalities for the talks will be prepared by the government”, Choudhury said. “This will be a courtesy meeting. After this the modalities will be worked out. We will meet all the (insurgent) groups and organisations in the state and take their opinion on what is good for Assam”, he said. To a query if the talks would be successful without the participation of their elusive ‘Commander-in-Chief’ Paresh Baruah, an optimistic Choudhury said, “Why do you think the talks won’t be successful? We are positive the talks will be successful”.
To the NDFB demand for a separate Bodoland, he said, “We have to stay together in Assam. Otherwise we will be finished. NDFB and all ethnic groups are our brothers and friends. We will meet them and also other organisations for taking a collective opinion on what is good for the state”. On NSCN-IM’s demand for ‘Greater Nagalim’ which includes parts of Assam, Choudhury said, “We have already lodged a protest against it with them”.