ULFA ready for talks if sovereignty discussed: Paresh Baruah


Guwahati : The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Wednesday said it would sit for peace talks with the government if its main demand of sovereignty or independence was discussed.

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“Our stand is very clear that if the government agrees to discuss our core demand of sovereignty, we are ready for such talks immediately,” ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah told News Live, a local television channel, by telephone.

“Even if the government holds peace talks with the jailed and arrested ULFA leaders on the issue of sovereignty we are acceptable to that as well,” the elusive rebel leader said from an undisclosed hideout.

Hours after the ULFA leader’s interview, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi rejected the rebel group’s demand.

“There cannot be any compromise on the issue of sovereignty. No government could ever discuss sovereignty and hence such an idea is absurd,” the chief minister told journalists here.

Gogoi, however, said the government was trying back-channel negotiations with the ULFA leaders.

“The first round is over (referring to the recent arrest of the ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa) and now efforts are on to further the peace talks,” the chief minister said.

Some opposition parties suggested a middle path for breaking the imbroglio.

“Both the sides, the ULFA and the government, should hold talks without any preconditions. Let the government accord the arrested ULFA leaders the status of political prisoners and pave the way for peace talks,” Communist Party of India leader Promod Gogoi told IANS.

The ULFA issue was also raised in parliament Wednesday with Home Minister P. Chidambaram making a statement in the Rajya Sabha that the central government was willing to begin negotiations if the northeast insurgent groups laid down arms.

The home minister also ruled out discussing ULFA’s sovereignty demand.