New Delhi will hold fresh talks next week with representatives of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), blamed for twin blasts that killed 15 people in Guwahati over the weekend, a rebel mediator said on Thursday.
"At our insistence, the National Security Adviser (MK Narayanan) once again agreed to hold a meeting in New Delhi on Monday where we shall place fresh modalities for direct peace talks between the ULFA leadership and the government," Indira Goswami, said a noted Assamese writer and sought by the ULFA to mediate for talks.
Peace talks with ULFA representatives had broken down after New Delhi September 24 called off a six-week ceasefire blaming the outfit of stepping up attacks and extortions.
Goswami will be accompanied by Rebati Phukan, another rebel mediator and childhood friend of ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah.
"I cannot reveal the modalities of what we are going to place before the government. The only thing I can say is that doors for peace talks are still wide open," said Goswami, who teaches modern Indian languages at the Delhi University.
The central government had on Tuesday announced a major counter-insurgency offensive against the ULFA after two powerful explosions last weekend in Assam's main city of Guwahati killed 15 people and wounded 40. Police in Assam have blamed the blasts on the ULFA, which is fighting for an independent homeland since 1979. The group has not claimed responsibility for the attacks.
"The fresh attempt for holding talks is aimed at putting a halt to the ongoing spectre of violence in Assam. Everybody in the state wants peace and we are trying our best to bring the two sides to the negotiating table," Goswami said.
Peace talks between ULFA representatives and the central government formally broke last month after the People's Consultative Group (PCG), a civil society team appointed by the rebels to mediate for talks, pulled out of the peace process blaming New Delhi for calling off the truce.
There were three rounds of talks between the ULFA chosen PCG and the Indian government peace negotiators.
The ULFA wants the release of five of their jailed leaders as a precondition to holding peace talks. New Delhi in return wants the rebel leadership to commit in writing that they would come for direct negotiations if the jailed militants were released. The ULFA is not willing to give it in writing leading to the collapse of the peace process. "We are still hopeful and very positive about Monday's talks," Goswami said.
In the past month, 10 people have died in a dozen bomb attacks in oil, timber and tea rich Assam, which borders Bangladesh and Bhutan.
The ULFA is one of the at least 30 rebel armies operating in India's northeast, where insurgencies have claimed more than 50,000 lives since 1947.