In what seems to be a breakthrough of sorts, the contours of a “doable, workable” framework is finally emerging from talks between the government and the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) led by the Arabinda Rajkhowa faction.
“The talks are in the final and decisive phase now. From here on, it should be a question of ‘when’, and not of ‘how’ or ‘if’,” a top government official told HT. “The main hurdles have been crossed. Though, the final resolution of these issues would require the views of a few other ministries and commissions, after which, the framework would be placed before the parliament for approval. A common framework to address the issues has been agreed to by both sides,” the official added.
The subsequent talks between the government team and Arabinda Rajkhowa-led Ulfa team will take place at 11AM on Wednesday. The talks, which started more than two years back after several top leaders including Rajkhowa were arrested by Bangladesh security forces and later handed over to India, have seen rapid progress unlike the talks with Nagaland’s NSCN (IM), which even after 15 years have failed to reach any conclusion.
A key issue would be the granting of scheduled tribe status to a huge chunk of the ‘indigenous’ population. The grant would render political protection in the face of alleged illegal immigration from Bangladesh over the last 50 years.
“Despite small hiccups, there has not been a single phase of talks with the ULFA, which has gone futile,” said a top official privy to the negotiations.
Other issues are infrastructure development, flood control, issues of cultural heritage, etc. “The government has already agreed to most of the demands,” a senior Ulfa leader said.
Meanwhile, the Paresh-Barua faction of the Ulfa has refused to be drawn into the ongoing negotiation as the key demand of sovereignty for Assam is not being deliberated upon.