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Govt holds peace talks with ULFA

Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh (Left) with ULFA ‘chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa during their meeting in New Delhi on Monday.
NEW DELHI, APRIL 9 (PTI): The top leadership of United Liberation of Asom (ULFA) today held talks with the government and discussed various aspects of its ‘charter of demands’ which sought amendment in the constitution to find a lasting solution to the three-decade-old insurgency problem in Assam.
During the 90-minute meeting, the Ulfa delegation led by its ‘chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa discussed with Union home secretary Mr RK Singh and other officials their demands and resolved to carry forward the dialogue process to find an amicable solution.
“It was a very constructive and fruitful discussion. I think we have achieved very good progress in the meeting,” Mr Singh told reporters here. Rajkhowa too echoed a similar sentiment saying the dialogue was “very satisfactory”.  “We discussed all issues concerning Assam’s peace and development. We all agreed to carry forward the dialogue process,” Rajkhowa told reporters after the talks which was held after a gap of six months.
Asked about the issues which figured in the talks, the home secretary said the Ulfa team raised issues like “safeguard” to the indigenous people of Assam but a detailed discussion on it and issues like Centre-state relations would be taken up in the next round of dialogue.  
Observance of ground rules, signed by both sides, surrender of arms and ammunition and total halt of operations by security forces against the pro-talk faction were some of the other issues which were discussed, sources said.
The meeting discussed various aspects of the group’s ‘charter of demands’ which sought amendment in the Constitution for finding “meaningful” ways to protect the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam.
The meeting, which was also attended by the representatives of the Assam government, also deliberated in detail on various aspects of the ground rules of the Suspension of Operations.
Ulfa ‘foreign secretary’ Sashadhar Choudhury said “all contentious” issues were discussed in the talks. He said they have asked the government to bring back Ulfa ‘general secretary’ Anup Chetia, currently lodged in a Dhaka jail, from Bangladesh. “A breakthrough on Chetia’s return is expected soon,” Choudhury said without elaborating.
In its ‘charter of demands’, the Ulfa also demanded change of rules and law and said a solution to their demands was not possible under the provisions of the existing Constitution.
Among other demands of the group include discussion on grounds for “Ulfa’s struggle and their genuineness”, status report on missing Ulfa leaders and cadres ~ numbering around 50 ~ including those missing since 2005 when the Bhutan government conducted offensives and other socio-economic issues.
The Ulfa has entered into formal peace talks with the government after a 32-year-old violent insurgency movement. On 3 September, 2011 the group had signed the Suspension of Operation pact with the government.
Rajkhowa led an eight-member team during introductory talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister Mr P Chidambaram in February, 2011.
Ulfa’s elusive ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah is still opposed to any dialogue with the government till ‘sovereignty’ issue is not on the table. The last such meeting was held here on 25 October.
Talks successful, we are hopeful: Rajkhowa
New Delhi/Guwahati, April 9 (IANS): Leader of the pro-talk faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) Arabinda Rajkhowa Monday termed as successful the talks with the central government on peace and development in Assam. “The discussion today was held on the basis of the 12-point charter of demands, which we had submitted to the government of India earlier. The discussion remained satisfying and we hope that the government of India will take our demands seriously,” said Rajkhowa, who led the pro-talk Ulfa delegation to New Delhi.
The Ulfa faction is likely to meet the representatives of the central and Assam governments in May for the fourth round of talks.
“We have raised before the government representatives the issues concerning Assam’s peace and development. We have found their response to be very constructive and satisfying,” said Rajkhowa. Another senior leader of the pro-talk faction, Raju Baruah, expressed happiness over the way talks have been progressing and said that the discussion Monday were positive. “We do not want to disclose much until we reach the final stage. We can only say that the response of the government of India is very positive towards our demands and we have raised all our demands,” Baruah said.

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