ULFA ready to talk but wants to discuss sovereignty

March 14th, 2008 - 1:36 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Syed Zarir Hussain
Guwahati, March 14 (IANS) Noted Assamese writer Indira Goswami Friday said the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was ready to hold peace talks with New Delhi, although the outfit wants the central government to discuss their core demand of sovereignty or independence. “Paresh Baruah (ULFA’s self-styled commander-in-chief) telephoned me twice and said they were ready for direct peace talks. But they want the issue of sovereignty to be discussed,” Goswami told IANS.

For the last three years, Goswami was the key link between the ULFA and New Delhi, with the rebel outfit formally entrusting her with the task of opening exploratory peace talks. She held several rounds of meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“I personally don’t see why the government cannot discuss sovereignty as mere discussing does not mean granting independence. In a democratic society sovereignty cannot be a taboo,” said Goswami, a prominent scholar of the Hindu epic “Ramayana”.

Her efforts at bringing the ULFA leadership for direct talks with New Delhi had almost fructified but certain preconditions set by both sides led to the collapse of the fragile peace initiative in September 2006.

“It is high time the government gave a serious thought to the ULFA issue,” she said.

For close to three years, the Delhi University professor of modern Indian languages was in constant touch with Baruah and Arabinda Rajkhowa, ULFA’s chairman, over telephone - although she has never met the two top ULFA leaders.

The demand for reviving the deadlocked peace process has gained momentum with the ULFA being blamed for serial bombings in Assam in the past 10 days that killed at least three people and wounded over 50.

“There should be unconditional peace talks with the ULFA. The law and order situation is really frightening,” said Chandra Mohan Patowary, leader of the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

“Everybody in Assam wants peace and even Miliki Baruah, mother of Paresh Baruah, is praying for a negotiated settlement to the problem and would like to see her son back home,” Goswami said.

The ULFA had earlier said it would sit for talks if the government released five of their jailed leaders and discussed the core issue of sovereignty. New Delhi has rejected the preconditions.

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