For the first time in its 31-year-long struggle, the banned United Liberation Front od Asom will hold face-to-face unconditional talks with the Centre tomorrow in an attempt to usher in peace in insurgency-hit Assam.
An eight-member ULFA delegation led by its 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa will meet Union Home Secretary G K Pillai.
"It's a preliminary meeting, more so a familiarisation exercise," a senior Home Ministry official said.
Before meeting Pillai, the ULFA leaders will have an introductory meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram. They are also likely to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on February 13 after his return from Kerala.
The group will begin formal dialogue with Centre's interlocutor P C Haldar after Thursday's meeting. On February 5, the ULFA announced that it will sit for unconditional talks with the Centre "respecting the wishes of the people of Assam". It also apologised for the violent acts it committed.
Apart from Rajkhowa, 'vice-chairman' Pradip Gogoi, 'political advisor' Bhimakanta Buragohain, 'foreign secretary' Sasha Choudhury, 'finance secretary' Chitrabon Hazarika, 'cultural secretary' Pranati Deka, 'publicity secretary' Mithinga Daimary and 'deputy commander-in-chief' Raju Barua will participate in the talks.
They arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday evening and were whisked away by armed security men. Before leaving for the national capital, the ULFA leaders met Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and sought his cooperation to take forward the peace process with the Centre.
"I hope talks with the Centre is successful and they discussed with me how to take the peace process forward", Gogoi hoped. Rajkhowa said the modalities for the talks have not been worked out so far and will come later.
The ULFA leaders released from jail recently have decided to hold unconditional talks with the government but the faction led by the group's 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua is opposed to it.