ULFA-I chief Paresh Baruah says talks possible only on sovereignty
United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) chief Paresh Barua said on Tuesday that the banned outfit would join talks with the Centre only if sovereignty is the main agenda.
In a telephonic interview to a local news channel in Guwahati, Baruah said the outfit would join talks only if there are no formalities, talks are held in an atmosphere of trust and sovereignty was the ‘one-point agenda’ on the table.
His statement comes a day after Centre signed a peace accord with all four factions of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), raising hopes of permanent peace in Bodo-dominated areas of Assam, and after an invitation for talks by the Assam government.
“We are demanding sovereignty and that is the one point agenda for us. It should be on the negotiating table. There is no need to go to Delhi for discussions, we would want the talks to be held in Assam,” he said.
Formed in 1979 with the aim of creating a sovereign Assam, ULFA is the biggest militant outfit in Assam. A faction led by former ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa joined the peace process in 2011, but Baruah who renamed his faction as ULFA (Independent) has rebuffed all offers of talks till date.
In the interview Baruah made it clear that while the NDFB’s main agenda was creation of a separate state, it is different for ULFA, which is seeking sovereignty and hence both demands shouldn’t be seen in the same context.
“We will never join talks which binds us in formalities. We want talks in a positive atmosphere with one point agenda. The government should be sincere. We are always positive but have doubts about Centre’s motives,” said Baruah.
“If we are able to discuss about a sovereign and independent Assam and come to a conclusion on this issue, we would definitely sign such a deal,” said the militant chief believed to be in hiding either in Myanmar or China.
On Monday, union home minister Amit Shah had said after signing of the Bodo Accord in New Delhi that remaining militant outfits in northeast including ULFA-I are welcome to join peace talks.
“I would like to appeal to commander-in-chief of United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) Paresh Baruah to come to the talks so that there can be permanent peace in Assam like it happened in Bodo-dominated areas with signing of Monday’s accord,” senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in Guwahati on Tuesday.