Assam offers unconditional talks with ULFA
The Assam government on Tuesday offered unconditional peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to end the three decades of insurgency in the region.
"We are offering our hands of friendship to the ULFA for holding unconditional talks with the government. Negotiations through talks is the only way for a solution rather than firing bullets," Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists.
The ULFA has been fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979. However in recent weeks it has offered to hold talks with New Delhi if it agrees to negotiate the issue of sovereignty or independence.
"Let the talks be unconditional from both sides. On the ULFA's demand for discussing sovereignty, let me be frank there is no point in discussing things that cannot be conceded," the chief minister said.
The ULFA is also seeking the release of five of their jailed leaders as another precondition for direct talks between their top leadership and New Delhi.
Gogoi had earlier said the government could release the jailed rebel leaders if that was the only hitch in holding peace talks.
"I am still hopeful of a solution through dialogue although it may take time to materialize," he said.
Three rounds of preliminary talks between the government and the People's Consultative Group (PCG), a team of civil society leaders chosen by the ULFA, were deadlocked after the rebel group refused to give New Delhi a letter of commitment mentioning they would sit for direct talks once their jailed leaders were released.
The peace process broke down in September last year after New Delhi called off a six-week ceasefire and resumed military operations blaming the ULFA for stepping up violence and extortions.
The ULFA went on a killing spree and bombings since then with the government resuming a massive military offensive. However, it failed to yield the desired results with the rebels sneaking back to their bases in neighbouring countries or mingling with the local people.
"ULFA militants have managed to enter Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Myanmarese government has no control in certain areas where the militants have their bases, while Bangladesh is known to provide shelter to the ULFA," the chief minister said.