Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Saturday said the ban on United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) will stay despite the outfit’s leadership talking truce. He also said counter-insurgency operations against the subversive, anti-talks elements within the outfit would continue.
His message to those aligned to the elusive Ulfa military chief Paresh Barua coincided with the release of the outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa from the Central Jail here. Rajkhowa was granted bail on Friday, a tad more than a year after his arrest from near the India-Bangladesh border.
“We welcome the efforts of the Ulfa leadership to pursue the peace process, but this does not mean we can allow a minority group within the outfit to carry out acts of violence and terror,” Gogoi said in his customary New Year interaction with media persons.
The chief minister said his government was ready to yield to ensure lasting peace in Assam. “Sovereignty (one of Ulfa’s main prerequisites for talks) is non-negotiable. Apart from this, how far we can go will depend on what they want from us.”
Soon after his release, Rajkhowa aired his wish list ahead of the proposed peace process. This included the lease of all Ulfa leaders including those in jail in Bangladesh. “The government should ensure that all our jailed leaders can sit together and discuss the peace plan,” he said.
Rajkhowa has in mind Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia, in jail in Bangladesh since 1997. Two other leaders – foreign secretary Sasha Chowdhury and finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika – are lodged in the jail here.
The Ulfa chairman insisted his outfit was not divided on the issue of talks. “Let us clarify that we don’t have any division in principle on the issue of peace talks… even Paresh Barua is not averse to talks,” he said, cautioning the doubting Toms.
Barua, who intelligence officials say is in hiding in Myanmar, wants the issue of sovereignty of Assam to be on the discussion table. Rajkhowa and the others comprising the outfit’s decision-making general council have apparently scaled down and are insisting on unconditional talks