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Assam peace process hits roadblock
Published on 1 Jul. 2010 11:23 PM IST
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The much-hyped talks about opening negotiations with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has dimmed with all indications that the government will not release the jailed rebel leadership to facilitate the peace process.
“How can we release them (ULFA leaders)? It depends on the judiciary to decide whether or not to release them,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS. He was reacting to Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s statement in New Delhi Wednesday that there was no immediate plan to release the jailed leaders.
“People in jail can also talk if they want to talk to the government, and it is for the Assam government to decide when and how to commence negotiations with the ULFA,” the minister said. Earlier, hopes brightened with leaders of the newly floated Citizen’s Forum claiming that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hinted about freeing the jailed ULFA leaders to facilitate peace talks with the government.
The Forum leaders last week met the prime minister in New Delhi to lobby for immediate ULFA-government peace negotiations.
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 out on bail and engaged in drumming up public support for opening peace talks. Rajkhowa and the Forum members were of the view that talks could only be held if all the jailed rebel leaders were freed.
“Talks with handcuffs on are not possible,” Rajkhowa told journalists while being produced in court last month. But the chief minister said: “We still can arrange a meeting of all the ULFA leaders in jail and do whatever is possible to get the peace process going.”
He, however, said the government was willing to open negotiations at the earliest. “We have got some positive feelers from the ULFA leaders, although we want Paresh Baruah to also come and join the process,” Gogoi said.
Centre stalling political solution: ULFA
The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Thursday held the Central government responsible for the stalemate in peace negotiations and maintained that the outfit was also supportive of negotiated settlement of the ‘India-Assam’ conflict.
In an emailed statement to the local media, Anu Buragohain of the ULFA’s publicity cell, said that the ULFA wanted a political settlement of its conflict with India and reports that a part of the outfit was not in favour of talks were wrong, reported IBNS.
“There is no division in the ULFA regarding political solution to the conflict,” the statement read. The outfit, however, reiterated that ‘sovereignty’ was the birthright of the people of Assam and the outfit’s convictions had deep roots in the Assamese society.
It blamed the Central government for failing to make progress in the peace talks. The ULFA alleged that some third, behind-the-scenes force and the Centre’s betrayal were the reasons for the stalemate in the political solution.

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