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Mediators to meet officials on direct talks with ULFA

CM Tarun Gogoi expressed scepticism on the ULFA's current demands for the next round of talks.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2006 13:19 IST

Close on the heels of a spurt of violence in Assam, two mediators between the ULFA and the Centre will meet top officials here next week to discuss "modalities" for the proposed direct talks between the banned group and the government.

Assamese writer Indira Goswami and Rebati Phukan, a childhood friend of ULFA "commander-in-chief" Paresh Baruah, will meet National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and Home Secretary VK Duggal next week and are expected to apprise them about ULFA's views on the holding of direct talks.

"We will meet them, maybe on Wednesday. We will see how to go about framing modalities for the proposed direct talks between the two sides," Goswami said.

The mediators are likely to press for a clarification from the Centre on ULFA's demands for the release of five of its jailed leaders, tracing missing cadres in Bhutan and the key demand of sovereignty for Assam.

The move comes in the wake of reports that ULFA has re-established its base in Bhutan, three years after the group was uprooted from the Himalayan kingdom after the Royal Bhutan Army launched a military offensive against it.

The meeting assumes significance in view of a recent spurt in violence in Assam, allegedly perpetrated by ULFA, in which, at least a dozen people, including five policemen have lost their lives. There have also been reports that ULFA has set up some camps in the Samdrupjongkhar area of Bhutan across Nalbari in Assam.

"We are upset that again there is a spurt in violence," Home Secretary Duggal said, referring to increased violence unleashed by the outfit. Duggal said there was no indication of direct talks at the moment but hoped they would be held "sooner rather than later".

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said the ULFA has so far not shown a "positive attitude" towards the talks process. "They (ULFA) are insisting on the release of top five leaders but have you ever heard them saying they will sit for talks after that?" he asked.
"Is there any assurance that after releasing them, they will sit... They are only saying release the leaders and then they will have discussion among themselves whether or not to sit for talks," Gogoi said.

On the other hand, the ULFA-nominated People's Consultative Group, which had three rounds of talks with the Centre, has expressed concern over the lack of a response from the government to the ULFA's demands.

First Published: Aug 13, 2006 13:19 IST