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Assam may release five top Ulfa leaders for talks

The new Govt has said there were no problems in releasing some of the jailed leaders of Ulfa for the sake of peace.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 12:01 IST
Syed Zarir Hussain (IANS)
Syed Zarir Hussain (IANS)

The government is considering the release of at least five jailed top separatist leaders of Assam to facilitate a frontline rebel group which could begin direct peace talks with New Delhi, a state official said on Saturday.

The new Congress-led coalition government in the state has intimated New Delhi that there were no problems in releasing some of the jailed leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) for the sake of peace, said an Assam government spokesperson.

Assam chief Minister Tarun Gogoi also confirmed the same. "We have no problems in releasing the jailed Ulfa leaders and the formalities are on in this regard to secure their release," Gogoi said.

"We have recommended their release following views sought from us by the central government."

The Ulfa, a rebel group fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979, formed an 11-member People's Consultative Group (PCG) last year.

The team, consisting of prominent civil society members, aims at beginning ceasefire talks with Indian government peace negotiators. Two rounds of talks have since been held, including one chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

The rebel group's representatives had, at the time, demanded the release of at least five to six of their senior leaders who were charged with cases ranging from murder to anti-national activities bordering on secession.

The reason cited for their release was that the Ulfa central committee required some of their imprisoned leaders for discussion so as to enable the rebel group to offer a ceasefire and come for direct talks with the government.

"We believe once the Ulfa leaders are released from jail it could pave the way for direct peace talks with New Delhi and this would definitely be a good signal and a positive beginning to solve the insurgency problem," the chief minister said.

The top Ulfa leaders in jail include the outfit's vice-president Pradip Gogoi, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, political adviser Bhimkanta Burahohain, publicity chief Mithingia Daimary, and senior leader Ramu Mech.

More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam during the past two decades.

First Published: May 20, 2006 12:01 IST