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Formal talks with ULFA to begin next month
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi's return to power is a boost to the peace process.
New Delhi: With the return of the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam, the nascent peace process in the state has received a big boost and formal talks with banned outfit ULFA are likely to begin next month.
The Centre is also arranging a meeting between a top leader of the pro-talk faction of ULFA and the outfit's general secretary Anup Chetia, currently lodged in a jail in Bangladesh, ostensibly to get his consent for the dialogue.
Government officials said the Centre's interlocutor P C Halder was in regular touch with the ULFA leaders, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram in February and expressed their willingness to engage in dialogue.
"The formal talks will be beginning by June. Initially, we will take up issues like setting up of designated camps, security of cadres, surrender of arms and livelihood issues. In the later stages, more substantive issues will be taken up for discussion," an official said.
Gogoi's return to power is a boost to the peace process as there will be continuity, he said. The Home Ministry has also suggested that the Assam government set up nine designated camps for the cadres of the pro-talk ULFA. Out of these, two camps will be set up in Nalbari district, where most of the ULFA leaders are taking shelter.
In the absence of designated camps, ULFA leaders like Sasha Chaudhury, Raju Baruah, Mithinga Daimari are living either in rented houses or their own houses.
Before the talks, one of the top leaders of the outfit will travel to Dhaka to meet Chetia to brief him about the initiatives taken by them to bring lasting peace in Assam and get his consent for it.
"A meeting with Chetia in the Dhaka jail is being arranged. We are in the process of getting passport and visa for the ULFA leader who will visit Bangladesh," the official said.
If Chetia comes on board, it will further isolate the outfit's 'commander'in-chief' Paresh Baruah, who is steadfastly opposed to any peace dialogue with the Centre. The ULFA is now studying the 'charter of demands' prepared by the Sanmilta Jatiya Abhibartan (SJA), an umbrella body of civil society organisations of Assam, before submitting its own 'charter of demands' to the Central government during the dialogue process.
The SJA charter demands Constitutional amendments to give Assam greater control over its own future through strengthening the state's power to control the revenues generated there, the natural resources, and the planning process and ensure a secure demographic situation as well as accelerated and balanced development.
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