Ready for peace talks, let ULFA take initiative: Gogoi


Kokrajhar (Assam) : Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Monday put the onus of holding peace talks on the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), saying the government was ready for negotiations.

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The chief minister was reacting to queries about the government’s response to the demand for peace talks with the ULFA made by the newly-floated Citizen’s Forum, which held a daylong conclave Saturday.

“Let the ULFA first respond to the resolutions adopted by the Citizen’s Forum. We have to know what the ULFA thinks about the forum and also if the outfit’s leadership acknowledges the initiative taken by it,” the chief minister said.

Gogoi said this on the sidelines of the swearing-in ceremony of newly-elected members of the Bodoland Territorial Council, a politico-administrative structure in Kokrajhar in western Assam.

“From our side, we are ready to hold talks, but they should first abjure violence and lay down arms,” the chief minister said.

Among the important resolutions passed at the forum’s conclave is one for release of all jailed ULFA leaders to enable them to hold their general council meeting to take a decision regarding peace talks with the government.

Saturday’s meeting was attended by more than 1,000 invited guests representing various political parties, student leaders, leading citizens, and ethnic groups.

The conclave was held despite ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah rejecting the initiative, saying there can be no compromise on its demand for independence.

Barring 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.

Both the central and the state government had earlier rejected holding talks with the ULFA on the issue of sovereignty, but said they were ready for unconditional talks.

The Forum was formed after ULFA vice chairman Pradip Gogoi and publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, met leading citizens in the state and appealed for their help in pushing forward the deadlocked peace process.

The two ULFA leaders are now out on bail after a Guwahati court last month released them from judicial custody.