ULFA commanders ask bosses for unconditional talks with centre

June 26th, 2008 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Amarpur (Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border) June 25 (IANS) Key commanders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) have urged their self-exiled top leaders to open “unconditional talks” with the Indian government, but feared that certain forces could try and sabotage their peace efforts. The commanders of the ULFA’s crack ‘28th battalion’ have already announced a unilateral truce Tuesday and have since received the government’s approval. They said they feared “fratricidal clashes” and attempts to sabotage their peace efforts.

They made their views clear at a press conference at this remote Mising tribal village in eastern Assam, on the border with Arunachal Pradesh, accessible through the river Dibang by motorised boats and also requiring some trek.

“We have been apprising our central leaders about certain key issues concerning Assam and its people, but they failed to respond, forcing us to take this peace initiative. We would like to call upon them (central ULFA leaders) now to come for unconditional talks with the Indian government,” Mrinal Hazarika, a commander of the group’s 28th battalion, told the packed gathering of journalists.

Jiten Dutta, another commander, was also with Hazarika as he spoke to the reporters.

Both ULFA commanders were in civvies and as were their armed cadres who stood guard. The news conference was held at a community hall of the village, located around 650 km east of Guwahati, the state capital.

“For the past two years or so, we have been telling our central leaders that the unabated influx of Bangladeshi migrants has been posing a threat to the identity of the indigenous Assamese people. But they preferred not to respond,” Hazarika said.

The commanders said the Alpha and Charlie companies of the ULFA’s ‘28th battalion’, that has its headquarters in Myanmar, have decided to call the truce and start the peace process. This was also a mark of protest at their central leadership’s silence on the issue of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

The only other unit of the ‘28th battalion’, the Bravo company, is out of the truce purview. “Leaders of the Bravo company are mostly abroad and they may join us later.”

Indian intelligence sources say ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, military chief Paresh Baruah, foreign secretary Sasadhar Choudhury and other central leaders are operating from within Bangladesh, a claim Dhaka has been denying.

“From a distance, our central leaders may have failed to appreciate or understand the situation on the ground in Assam. But we hope, they would come and join the peace process unconditionally,” the ULFA commander said.

Significantly, the pro-talk leaders who addressed the media here Thursday denied there was any split in the ULFA.

“We don’t think there has been a split in the ULFA. We are hopeful more units and battalions will join us in the peace efforts along with our central leadership,” Hazarika said.

They are, however, apprehensive of “certain forces” who could try to sabotage their efforts to resolve the problem through a dialogue with New Delhi.

“We are certainly apprehensive of fratricidal clashes but we are taking precaution,” he said.

The ULFA leaders said the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), appointed by their group to prepare the ground for possible direct talks between the outfit and the Indian government had failed in its objective.

“There have been differences of opinion among PCG members and our organization. The PCG could not accomplish its mission,” Hazarika said.

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