United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa on Tuesday said the organisation’s general secretary, Anup Chetia, was the first person in ULFA to talk of peace 24 years ago.
Rajkhowa’s statement comes on a day when a seven-member delegation took part in talks with government officials led by Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi.
“Ever since we started our peace talks with the government four years ago, we always had Chetia’s support. In fact, it was he who had first proposed the need for peace talks to find a political solution to the Assam issue way back in 1991. That suggestion fell through as our collective decision-making body did not agree with his suggestion,” Rajkhowa said, going back to the time when the ULFA was not divided and was fighting the government forces.
The talks are part of the ongoing government effort to finalise a negotiated settlement with the ULFA.
The outfit, formed in 1979 to fight for Assam’s independence from India, is now divided into two factions.
While the pro-talks group is led by Rajkhowa, the anti-talk faction — called ULFA (Independence) — is led by Paresh Barua and Abhizeet Asom who remain persistent in their demand for a sovereign Assam.
Chetia, along with two of his cadres, was handed over by the Bangladeshi security forces to India on November 10 after completion of their jail terms for various crimes in the neighbouring country.
“The government has said it won’t oppose our demand to include Chetia in the talks. So we are hopeful that he is allowed to take part in the next phase of talks in December. Of course, we understand the legalities involved and that the process has to run the due course,” the outfit’s chairman added. A home ministry spokesperson characterised Tuesday’s discussions as “cordial”.