Citizen's Forum to meet PM on talks with ULFA | india | Hindustan Times
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Citizen's Forum to meet PM on talks with ULFA

india Updated: Jun 20, 2010 23:57 IST

A six-member group of the newly formed Citizen's Forum in Assam will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Monday to explore the possibility of opening peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

The Forum leaders have since reached New Delhi for the meeting to be held at the invitation of the prime minister.

"We are quite positive about the meeting and hope we are able to achieve a breakthrough in resuming the deadlocked peace process with the ULFA," Hiranya Bhattacharyya, one of the Forum members, said by telephone.

The Forum, an 11-member committee comprising academics, writers, retired police and army officers, rights leaders, and intellectuals, was formed in April and claims the support of at least 100 civil society and other ethnic groups.

The Forum in April held a citizen's conclave and resolved to broker peace between the government and the ULFA to put the curtains down to more than three decades of violent insurgency in Assam.

"We have come with an open mind and quite positive that something would emerge after our meeting," convenor of the Citizen's Forum Hiren Gohain said.

The ULFA is waging a war for independence since 1979 and has always maintained that talks, if any, should revolve around their main demand of sovereignty.

The Forum had earlier sought the release of all jailed ULFA leaders to enable them to hold the outfit's general council meeting to take a decision regarding holding peace talks with the government.

Barring ULFA's elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit is in jail. The imprisoned leaders include chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, and ULFA political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

Two other leaders - ULFA vice chairman Pradep Gogoi and publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, are currently out on bail and are engaged in drumming up public support for opening peace talks.

Almost all the jailed leaders, including the ULFA chairman, expressed their willingness for peace talks, but want them released from prison.

Both the central and state governments had earlier rejected holding talks with the ULFA on the issue of sovereignty, but said they were ready for unconditional talks.

The Forum was formed after Gogoi and Daimary met leading citizens in the state and appealed for their help in furthering the deadlocked peace process.