New Delhi: The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Tuesday began a crucial round of peace talks with a central government team led by Home Secretary R.K. Singh.
The six-member ULFA team is led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa. P.C. Haldar, interlocutor between the two sides, was also present for the talks at the North Block office of the home ministry.
The talks, described as introductory by officials, would discuss the charter of demands submitted by ULFA.
The charter of demands includes constitutional amendments to give Assam greater control over its natural resources, revenue generation, participation in the planning process, ensuring a secure demographic situation, besides accelerated and balanced development.
Rajkhowa told reporters before the talks that they would “explain long-standing demands of the region and the aspirations of the people”.
The meeting will be formal with the minutes to be signed and a notification to be issued in the gazette, official sources told IANS.
ULFA and the central government entered into a ceasefire earlier this year after the rebel leadership was released on bail.
ULFA, one of the biggest rebel outfits in the tea and oil-rich region of Assam, has fought for an independent homeland for Assamese since 1979.
At least 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Assam because of fighting between government forces and rebels in the past three decades.
The much-hyped talks hit a major roadblock with ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah rejecting the initiative.
Baruah, said to be hiding in the Myanmar-China border area, in an e-mail statement said: “We cannot support the peace talks as the ULFA leadership led by Rajkhowa is under the influence of our enemy (government).”
But the ULFA chairman maintains that Paresh Baruah is not opposed to the peace talks.