Pro-talks ULFA group writes to PM, gives up seccession demand

February 20th, 2009 - 7:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Feb 20 (IANS) A splinter group of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Friday said it has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, formally giving up its demand for independence for Assam and instead seeking maximum autonomy for the state.
“We have put forward an 18-point charter of demands, a copy of which was sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for active consideration,” Mrinal Hazarika, president of the pro-talks ULFA faction, told journalists.

The two potent strike units of the ULFA’s 28th battalion, the Alpha and Charlie companies, declared a unilateral ceasefire in June last year and announced formation of a parallel organisation calling itself the “pro-talk ULFA group”.

“There is no justification in the demand for sovereignty or independence, and hence we are seeking maximum autonomy for Assam, besides reservation of 70 percent seats for indigenous Assamese people and creation of an upper house in the state assembly,” said Jiten Dutta, another senior pro-talk ULFA leader.

Reacting to media reports that Dhaka was ready to extradite Anup Chetia, the ULFA general secretary, the pro-talk rebel leaders said the move would bolster the peace process.

“If Anup Chetia is handed over to India, then we feel he could take the lead in furthering the peace process with New Delhi,” Hazarika said.

Two of ULFA’s top leaders - the group’s president Arabinda Rajkhowa and ‘commander-in0-chief’ Paresh Baruah - are believed to be in Bangladesh and are reluctant to hold peace talks with the government.

“The general mood of the people of Assam is for peace and they want that the ULFA should engage in talks with the government. On our part, we would try and take the peace process forward,” Dutta said.

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