United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, out on bail on Saturday, declared his readiness to put aside all conditions his outfit had set for peace talks with the Assam government.
"We are committed to peace… We are ready for unconditional peace talks," he told his supporters outside the Guwahati Central Jail, where he was lodged for over a year after his arrest on the Meghalaya border in November 2009. He was released two days after a TADA court granted him bail.
Around 200 supporters — including his deputy Pradip Gogoi — greeted the Ulfa chief outside the central jail, brandishing the outfit's flags and shouting slogans.
Rajkhowa (54) — who went underground after Ulfa's formation on April 7, 1979 — appealed for the release of its central council members, 'foreign secretary' Sasha Choudhury and 'finance secretary' Chitraban Hazarika, before a council meeting to discuss the talks.
He also demanded the extradition of Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia, in a Bangladesh jail since 1997. "We don't have any division in principle on the issue of peace talks… even (Ulfa military chief) Paresh Barua isn't averse to talks," he said.
But Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi insisted the ban on the Ulfa, slapped in 1990, would continue, as "one section has still remained opposed to talks and is still indulging in violence".
He warned Barua's anti-talks faction that the operations against it would not stop even as the government prepared for peace talks. "Paresh Barua will be left out if he does not give peace a chance."
Rajkhowa's elder brother Dimbo and other family members received him at the jail gates to take him to his ancestral home at Lakhuwa in Sibsagar district after 30 years.
On Rajkhowa's plan to address several public receptions on his way home, Gogoi said, "There is no problem with him holding rallies, provided his speeches are on peace talks within the framework of the Constitution."