Pro-talk ULFA leaders seek unconditional dialogue

July 14th, 2008 - 11:07 am ICT by IANS  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Sadiya (Assam), July 14 (IANS) Pro-talk leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) have started a massive campaign to drum up public opinion and force the outfit’s central leadership to hold unconditional negotiations with New Delhi. “As part of our mission, we are engaged in meeting representatives of various organisations and community leaders to elicit public opinion for peace so that our central leadership sees reason to come for peace talks,” expelled ULFA commander Jiten Dutta told IANS.

Dutta and two more senior rebel leaders were expelled by the ULFA last month after they engineered a revolt and helped the Alpha and Charlie companies of ULFA’s 28th battalion to declare a unilateral ceasefire.

The 28th battalion was considered ULFA’s most potent striking unit and was blamed for the coordinated attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant workers in eastern Assam during the past few years in which about 150 people were killed.

“I am still the commander of the A and C companies of the 28th battalion with all the cadres with me. The ULFA cannot expel us without a central executive being held,” Dutta said.

The pro-talk leaders said they decided to announce a unilateral ceasefire June 24 after realising their central leadership had failed to address several burning issues facing Assam.

“Our central leadership simply ignored crucial issues confronting the state, including the problem of illegal influx of Bangladeshi nationals,” Dutta said.

The ceasefire group in the past week organised two massive peace rallies in eastern Assam to mobilise public opinion for holding talks between the ULFA leadership and the government.

“The overwhelming response of the people in both the rallies indicates that people in general want peace and an end to bloodshed. The ULFA central leadership should respect the sentiments of the people of Assam,” Dutta said.

The ULFA is fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979 with the outfit reiterating their stand that they would come for direct peace talks only when New Delhi agrees to discuss their main plank for sovereignty or independence.

“If the ULFA says the government should discuss sovereignty, then New Delhi would counter by saying talks should be held within the ambit of the Indian constitution. In this war of words, the prospect for talks would die down. So we feel both sides should come for unconditional talks,” Dutta said.

The Assam government, meanwhile, had set up a designated camp for the cadres of the ceasefire group in Sadiya, the easternmost town of Assam, about 600 km from state capital Guwahati.

“Our cadres would stay in the designated camps and avoid moving around with arms and not indulge in any kind of extortions,” the expelled ULFA commander said. “But we shall not lay down arms.”

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