Walk the Peace Talk

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has insisted on the release of its five top leaders from jail to help it name its representatives to hold direct talks with the Government of India (GoI). It is obvious that the ULFA is not in a position to carry out a face to face dialogue with the GoI unless it has a proper set of personnel to carry forth the very process itself. As such, it is a reasonable demand and there is now no reason why Delhi should not release the jailed ULFA leaders. The Tarun Gogoi led government in the State if it wants to act as a genuine facilitator for the peace talks, should take the first step to approach the Centre to immediately release the leaders. 

It appears that there is a whole lot of confusion on how to kick start the peace process. One of the reasons for the delay seems to be that each side wants to start from a position of strength and as a result what we have seen for the last six months is not any sincere effort to take the all important first step but rather playing a cat and mouse game of running around in circles. Such mind games has to stop immediately or else the ground work prepared by the Peoples Consultative Group and the goodwill it has generated will come to nothing.

It is equally baffling to study the statements coming from the Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. He is reported to have stated that his government would act as a facilitator for the release of senior ULFA leaders from jail and would recommend a ceasefire provided ULFA talked directly to the Centre. If Gogoi is amenable to the demand for releasing the jailed leaders, why even make it a pre-condition. The ULFA on it part has already given the impression that it is ready to hold direct talks with Delhi on the condition that its senior leaders be released first. The Centre also wants the ULFA to come forward for direct talks. 

So it is obvious that all three voices have the same objective: to announce a ceasefire and start formal direct talks. But the problem is neither the ULFA nor the Centre wants to be seen as bowing down to each others requests. It is therefore unfortunate that even before coming to the talks table; both sides are staring at a deadlock situation. 

The hot pursuit of ULFA cadres by the security forces during the last fortnight or so does not do any good for nurturing a climate of trust building, which is what is required at this crucial juncture in order that it will, create an enabling environment for the parties concerned to start the peace process through mutual consent. At the moment what is required is self restraint from all sides although there is reasonable skepticism that forces seeking military solution to the conflict are out to jeopardize the efforts to find a political solution. 

While it is important for the ULFA to silence its guns, the killing of ULFA cadres by security forces only goes to expose the Government of India’s attitude towards the problem. It also brings to the fore once again the inimical role being played out by the security agencies and the complete dependence of the civilian leadership on military inputs. The elected government in Delhi must take control of the peace initiative before it disintegrates as a result of the whims and fancies of the military establishment. In the end, what is required of the ULFA and Delhi is to stop playing mind games and get on with the real task of talking to each other. The path for direct talks is already laid out. All that the ULFA and the Government of India has to do now is to walk the talk.