Guwahati: ULFA-I keen to hold peace talks with the government. The self-styled commander-in-chief of the outlawed outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), Paresh Baruah, on Tuesday indicated to hold talks with the government by stating that his group would not mind if Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma mediates in the possible peace talks with the Centre.
The ULFA-I chief said that the incumbent Chief Minister has the courage, sincerity, and honesty to take forward the peace talks.
“He (Sarma) is capable. He knows our history and we have seen his courage. If the talks are not initiated, how can the 42-year-old problem be solved even though the issue is complicated,” Baruah told Syed Zarir Hussain, the Chief Managing Editor of Assam’s leading television channel, News Live.
The Assam Chief Minister said in New Delhi on Tuesday that the informal process of talks with ULFA-I is going on and within the next two to three years, the problems would be resolved.
Claiming that the talks are very essential, Baruah said that if talks are not initiated, how can the deadlock be broken? “Our doors for talks are always open,” he said.
Stating that due to the wrong decisions of the previous chief ministers, they took up the arms struggle, Baruah appreciated Sarma’s efforts on the ULFA-I issue.
ULFA-I keen to hold peace talks with the government. “Several former chief ministers, including the late Tarun Gogoi, had also undertaken steps but did not continue for long. Later, his (Gogoi) government divided us by adopting the policy of divide and rule,” Baruah said from an undisclosed location.
“We are hopeful that the Chief Minister would be able to positively influence the Government of India and find out a way for talks. Since he became the Chief Minister (on May 10), Sarma has made a good beginning and we believe the conclusion would be equally good,” Baruah said.
The ULFA-I chief said that the group had declared a unilateral ceasefire to help the Assam government fight against the pandemic.
Appreciating the Assam Chief Minister’s actions against the menace of drug abuse, Baruah said that the efforts would benefit the people of Assam, especially the youth.
“We are cooperating with the government to fight against both the Covid pandemic and the drug menace. Sarma has the responsibility to do better for the Assamese people,” the ULFA-I supremo said.
The Assam Chief Minister, who has repeatedly appealed to the ULFA-I and other militant outfits to initiate talks with the government, to come to the mainstream and contribute to further develop the state, said in New Delhi on Tuesday that a fresh move is on to engage the outfit for peace talks.
The ULFA-I, which operates out of the Myanmar territory, had on Sunday announced a three-tier council with Baruah as the president of the supreme council.
According to a statement issued by the militant outfit, in the restructured organisational set-up, self-styled major general Nayan Asom will be the president of both the higher council and the lower council.
In another positive development after several decades, the outfit had abstained from calling for a boycott of the Independence Day celebrations on August 15 this year.
The ULFA-I, which is also known as an anti-talk outfit, and various other extremists groups in the northeastern region regularly called for a boycott of Republic Day and Independence Day functions.
In 2005, the ULFA had engaged the People’s Consultative Group (PCG) to discuss the peace process with the Centre, and at least three rounds of discussions were held with the then government led by Manmohan Singh.
However, the outfit subsequently pulled itself out of the talks, citing the government’s renewed offensive actions against it.
The pro-talk faction of the ULFA was headed by its general secretary Anup Chetia, who was extradited to India from Bangladesh in November 2015. He later joined the peace process.