The pro-talk United Liberation Front of Asom leadership, supported by four of the total six armed battalions of the organisation, has formally announced on Saturday its decision to start a meaningful peace talks with the Central government without any preconditions.
The first round of formal talks will be held in New Delhi on February 10.
The resolution in this regard was first approved in the ULFA central executive committee meeting and later was ratified by two third majority members in a general council meeting held last month in a secret place in Nalbari district of Assam.
This was announced on Saturday by three top political wing leaders of ULFA, 'foreign secretary' Sasa Choudhury, 'vice president' Pradip Gogoi and 'publicity secretary' Mithinga Daimary.
In a counter development, the armed wing supremo of ULFA, self styled 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah and 'Major' Jiban Maran backed by their two armed battalions strongly opposed the process of peace talks between ULFA and the Central government and stated that they 'will never compromise on the issue of sovereignty of Assam.'
ULFA political leadership has claimed that ULFA chairman Aurobinda Rajkhowa had invited both Paresh Baruah and Jiban Maran to attend the central executive meeting of ULFA but the duo failed to attend the crucial meeting.
The anti-talk faction on the other hand, put the blame on Rajkhowa for 'deliberately keeping them at bay.' They argued that the letter was sent on January 16 while the meeting was held on January 18.
They also claimed that they received the invitation letter after the completion of the crucial central executive meeting.
The anti-talk 'publicity in-charge' Arunodaya Dohotiya in a communiqué on Saturday warned the pro-talk faction that 'we will not tolerate any dilution of ULFA's sovereignty demand. If 'Colonel' Paresh Baruah dares to compromise on the sovereignty issue, even he will not be spared and we will expel him from the organisation.'
The pro-talk faction, meanwhile, issued a veiled threat stating that if Paresh Baruah and his followers refuse to accept the decision of the ULFA central executive and general council, disciplinary action will be taken against them according to ULFA constitution.
The leadership also made it clear that it would not participate in the forthcoming assembly elections of Assam.
The leadership is now preparing the agenda for talks with the Central government. The February 10 formal talks will just be a familiarisation parade.
The delegation members are scheduled to meet Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram before starting first round of formal talks with the government representatives including the government interlocutor P C Haldar.
The ceasefire agreement is likely to be signed only after both sides agree upon the agenda and basic parameters of peace talks.
While the people of Assam are excited about the ULFA leadership's announcement on the proposed unconditional peace talks with the Centre, the anti-talk faction's counter statement and attempt to disrupt the peace process has caused serious concern among the people at large.
Meanwhile, the Assam government has tightened security of the pro-talk ULFA leaders fearing any misadventure by the anti-talk faction.
Security measures have also been reinforced in various sensitive areas of the state following the warning issued by anti-talk faction on Saturday.
Announcement of formal peace process is undoubtedly a welcome step, however, it remains to be seen whether the process of peace talks brings lasting peace in troubled Assam or the anti-talk faction again mobilises its armed cadres to indulge in violence and destructions.