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Decks cleared for separatists’ release
Published on 28 Nov. 2010 11:45 PM IST
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The decks are being cleared for the release of all top jailed leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) as the government wants to pave the way for peace talks to end over three decades of insurgency in Assam.
As part of a government strategy, four top ULFA leaders were released, with the government prosecutor under instructions from the state not to object to the bail petitions filed by the jailed rebels.
The latest to be released on bail is ULFA deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah who walked out of the Guwahati Central Jail late Saturday.
“We want the release of all the jailed ULFA leaders and hence we did not object to the bail petitions of the ULFA leaders, including Baruah,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.
“Naturally, the decision to allow or reject the bail petitions rests with the judiciary, but we believe peace talks can start once the jailed ULFA leaders are released.”
Baruah apart, three other top ULFA leaders are already out on bail - vice chairman Pradeep Gogoi, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary and senior central executive member of the outfit Ramu Mech.
Octogenarian ULFA ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain’s bail plea has already been granted and due for release any time with just few technical formalities left for his freedom.
There are just four more top ULFA leaders in jail now - chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika and cultural secretary Pranati Saikia.
Saikia’s final bail application is being heard next week and it is very likely that she will also get a positive nod from the court with the government prosecutor unlikely to oppose the bail petition.
“Let all the ULFA jailed leaders be released and then we can discuss modalities for peace talks,” Baruah told IANS. “The ULFA central executive would decide on the peace talks,” he added.
Going by the government strategy, bail applications of the remaining three ULFA leaders will be moved in the court in a phased manner.
Talks with ULFA likely in January
The much-awaited peace talks between ULFA and the government is expected to begin next January, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said on Saturday.
Gogoi said Centre’s interlocutor PC Halder has been engaged in initial discussion with ULFA leadership and would finalise the modalities of talks before initiating the process.
“I think the talks with ULFA will start by January. Things are going on in a positive direction,” he told reporters here.
Gogoi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram in the last two days and briefed them about the prevailing situation in Assam and the proposed talks.
To facilitate their participation in peace talks, the Assam government has already decided not to oppose the bail pleas of top ULFA leaders, including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who are currently lodged in jail.
Apart from Rajkhowa, ULFA’s self-styled general secretary Chitraban Hazarika and ‘foreign secretary’ Sasha Choudhary are currently in Assam jails while group’s ‘vice- chairman’ Pradip Gogoi and other leaders -- Raju Baruah, Mithinga Daimary and Bhimakanta Burhagohain -- have already got bails.
“Release of ULFA leaders are not in our hands but in courts. But we will not oppose their bail applications,” Gogoi said.
Asked whether elusive ‘commander-in-chief’ of ULFA Paresh Baruah would participate in the proposed talks, the Chief Minister said “door is open” for him and the government would not wait for him for indefinite period.
Peace talks with ULFA are expected to give a major boost to Congress -- which has been ruling Assam for two consecutive terms -- before the Assembly elections next year.
On the recent violence perpetrated by NDFB which claimed nearly 20 lives, Gogoi said strict action would be taken against anyone indulge in violence.

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