The outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam, led by Arabinda Rajkhowa, has set the tone for dialogue to resolve the over 31-year-old vexed insurgency problem in the state by dropping its main demand for 'sovereignty'.
In its charter of demands submitted to the government of India, the ULFA noted: "Assam and its people were sovereign before the British imperialism snatched away the sovereignty of the people of Assam after the Yandaboo treaty of 1826. Starting from the heroic struggle of Gomadhar Knower, the people of Assam were part of the great anti-imperialist struggle against British imperialism which ultimately resulted in the independence of India on 15th August 1947.
"The questions of negotiations between various constituent entities on mutual adjustment of their respective sovereignties through a written formal agreement therefore cropped up. The results were seen in the Constitution of India. Here naturally the question arise-in a written Constitution with division of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary at Central and state level with three lists enumerating fields of exercising the power, who is the sovereign or where does the sovereignty lie in the Constitution of India? Secondly, in an ever growing encroachment of each other's powers and in view of the increasing curtailment of powers of the states between the various constitutional entities in Indian scheme of governance is the sovereignty which was negotiated in 1951 still valid?
"Whether the members of the constituent assembly from Assam adequately represented the people of Assam to defend and uphold the rights of Assam is also a question which is shrouded in jurisprudential ambiguity. The continued failure and disinclination of the Government of India to stop illegal immigration from Bangladesh into Assam, which even the Supreme Court, has declared to be a silent invasion, indicates the failure of Government of India to defend the land and the people which it claims to be representing under the agreement of sovereignty i.e. the Constitution of India.
"It is also evident that Assam was allowed to languish in backwardness as other states marched ahead. The people of Assam have suffered historic neglect and disdain at the hands of the Government of India. There were therefore real grounds for a struggle to uphold Assam's inalienable rights, which had also led to the rise of the ULFA.
"It is in this historical context that the United Liberation Front of Assam reiterates the ongoing issues between Assam and India can be honorably and meaningfully resolved peacefully only by a fresh look at the issues of sovereignty so as to ensure that
"The people of Assam today feel insecure in their own traditional homeland and have been left far behind. To achieve such objectives, United Liberation Front of Assam proposes that negotiations be initiated between India and the People of Assam to bring in measures Constitutional and other wise of wide scope and that certain urgent political, economic, social, cultural arrangements be undertaken and completed within a reasonable time-frame by the Government of India to ensure a peaceful democratic solution of the historical Indo-Assam question.
"In the negotiations, the issues will be discussed under the following broad groupings:
"(A)Grounds for ULFA's struggle and their genuineness.
"(B)Status report on missing ULFA leaders and cadres
"(C) Constitutional and Political arrangements and Reforms-including protection of the identity and material resources of the local indigenous population of Assam.
"(D) Financial and Economic Arrangements, including settlement of all royalties on mines/minerals including oil on a retrospective compensatory basis and rights of independent use for a sustainable economic development in future.
"(E) Illegal migration-its effect/impact and required remedies including sealing of international borders, river patrolling, development of a native force to man the borders.
"(F) Ethnic issues-problems and constitutional restructuring including settlement of border disputes and removal of encroachment.
"(G) Education and Health-reforms as required to preserve the identity of the people of Assam and benefits.
"(H) Agricultural and Rural Development.
"(I) Land and Natural resources-including right of natives to the land, flood control and management.
"(J) Industrial Growth-Development of infrastructure, removal of transport bottleneck,development of entrepreneurial skill and efficiency in labour, availability of credit, infusion of capital-leading to industrial take off and right to engage in specific relationship with foreign countries for promotion of mutual trade, commerce and cultural relationship.
"(K) Restoration, protection, preservation and spread of indigenous culture of Assam in all its variety.
"(L) Amnesty, re-integration and rehabilitation of ULFA members and affected people."