The United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) will not insist on Assam’s sovereignty being part of the agenda for the peace talks it is scheduled to hold with the government in New Delhi on February 10.
At a press conference on Saturday, Ulfa ‘foreign secretary’ Sashadhar Choudhury, general secretary Pradip Gogoi and central publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary also apologised for the murder of social worker Sanjoy Ghosh in 1997 and the blast that killed 10 schoolchildren in Dhemaji district in 2004. Choudhury’s remarks also suggested the Ulfa had almost given up on its elusive military chief Paresh Barua joining the peace process.
The Ulfa, in its central executive council meeting, resolved to pursue unconditional talks with the Centre. The decision, ratified by its general council later, means the outfit will no longer insist on the sovereignty of Assam being a precondition to the talks.
“We came forward for talks, respecting the wishes and sentiments of the people of Assam. Talks will begin on February 10 when we send a delegation to Delhi to meet home minister P Chidambaram,” said Choudhury.
Asked if the Ulfa had scaled down its sovereignty demand, Choudhury said, "We agreed to unconditional talks. We don't want any demand to jeopardise the peace process. Preconditions have stood in the way of the peace process since 1992." Choudhury also hinted at disciplinary action against Barua for defying the general council. "One man can't disrupt the peace process. Action will be initiated against anyone who defies or disregards the decision," he said. The outfit was set up in April 1979 to pursue the goal of an independent Assam. Barua still remains rigid in pursuit of this dream. That Barua was not completely isolated was proved when media offices here received a signed statement from Arunuday Dohotia, chief of publicity of the hardline faction, shortly after Choudhury's press conference. The statement said the struggle for a sovereign Assam would continue.