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ULFA leaders, Centre begin peace talks in New Delhi

February 10, 2011 15:07 IST
Leaders of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom on Thursday met Home Minister P Chidambaram as they began face-to-face unconditional talks with the Centre in an attempt to usher in peace in the insurgency-hit Assam.

An eight-member ULFA delegation led by its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa met Chidambaram at his North Block office in New Delhi as a part of an introductory meeting. The meeting was followed by a full session with senior home ministry officials led by Home Secretary G K Pillai.

Thursday's meet assumes significance as it took place for the first time in ULFA's 31-year-old history. The meeting will also be attended by Assam home secretary N K Das, additional director general of police (Assam) Khagen Sharma, Assam home commissioner Jishnu Barua, Centre's interlocutor P C Haldar, Secretary (internal security) U K Bansal and Intelligence Bureau chief N Sandhu.

"The meeting is a preliminary one, more so a familiarisation exercise," a senior home ministry official said.

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, ULFA's 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 had said. 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. The ULFA delegation is also likely to meet Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on February 13 after his return from Kerala.
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