No talks on ULFA’s sovereignty, says Gogoi

April 27th, 2010 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, April 27 (IANS) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Tuesday rejected holding peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on their core demand of sovereignty and said negotiations, if any, should be unconditional. “There is no question of compromising on India’s sovereignty, and hence no point if the ULFA sticks to its demand that the issue of sovereignty should be the talking point in any negotiation,” the chief minister told journalists here.

“Let the ULFA come forward for unconditional talks by abjuring violence. We are committed to finding a solution, but cannot discuss the issue of sovereignty.”

The chief minister was reacting to a set of resolutions adopted Saturday at a state-level convention organized by the newly-floated Citizen’s Forum to broker peace between the ULFA and the government.

The convention urged the government to open talks with the ULFA by discussing all their core demands. Though the word sovereignty was not directly mentioned in the resolution, it was amply clear that they wanted the government to discuss sovereignty as the core demand of the ULFA.

“Let the ULFA first respond to the resolution 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 the Forum,” the chief minister said.

The other important resolutions adopted at the Forum’s conclave include releasing all jailed ULFA leaders to enable them to hold the outfit’s general council meeting to take a decision regarding holding of 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.

“Let there be a formal proposal from the jailed ULFA leaders for their release and then we would discuss and look at the matter seriously. We are prepared to walk the extra mile,” Gogoi said.

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 governments 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 furthering the deadlocked peace process.

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

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