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ULFA announces ceasefire with govt forces

July 12, 2011 18:38 IST

In a development that signals the beginning of political dialogue with the United Liberation Front of Asom faction led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa in a short time, the pro-talks ULFA group on Tuesday formally declared 'ceasefire' with the security forces.

The faction's 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa issued a statement declaring ceasefire with the government, several months after the peace process was initiated. The declaration reflects the advancement in the process aimed at putting an end to decades of bloody conflict in Assam.

"Respecting the desire of the people of Assam for a peaceful solution of the ongoing conflict, the General Council has decided to begin political negotiations with the government and has empowered the chairman of ULFA to declare a ceasefire," Rajkhowa said in a press release.

A spokesman of the ULFA faction said that the outfit expected a prompt and positive response from the government to its declaration so that a formal agreement of ceasefire could be initialed between the two parties soon.

An informal ceasefire was on, ever since the pro talks faction agreed to sit for talks with the government. Operations by security forces have remained suspended and ULFA cadres supporting the move have been stationed at a place near Nalbari.

The proposal for a formal ceasefire similar to the agreements arrived at with other militant outfits in the region was mooted by the government soon after the first round of talks was held last March.

However issues such as allowance and deposition of arms delayed the process, since both sides had divergent opinions.The spokesman said that the modalities of the ceasefire would be chalked out in consultation with the government. Usually, as seen with other insurgent groups, the agreement is for six months which is renewed periodically.

Meanwhile, informed sources said that ULFA has decided to usher in "cosmetic changes" to the charter of demands prepared by the Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan, a nine member group of civil society leaders and intellectuals in the state.

After the changes are made, the charter will be placed before the government.

The first round of talks is expected towards the end of this month. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been claiming that the peace process with the ULFA faction is on the right track.

ULFA's chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, foreign secretary Sasadhar Choudhury and cultural secretary Pranati Deka were arrested in Bangladesh and handed over to Indian forces in December 2009.

They were subsequently released on bail by a court in Guwahati after the state government did not contest their bail petition after the ULFA leaders had agreed to sit for unconditional talks.

K Anurag in Guwahati