It will pave the way for putting an end to violence in Assam
In the first step towards finding ways for ushering in permanent peace in Assam, a tripartite agreement for Suspension of Operations (SoO) was signed here on Saturday among the Centre, the Assam government and the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
The Union government was represented by the Joint Secretary (North East), Home Ministry and the Assam government by the Home Commissioner. Shahdhar Chaudhuri, Chtraban Hazarika and Raju Barua, three key ULFA functionaries represented the organisation, an official release said.
The ULFA had earlier agreed to abjure violence and find a solution to the problems as perceived by the outfit through peaceful negotiations with the Union government and the Assam government.
The agreement would pave the way for putting an end to violence in the North-Eastern State and clear the decks for initiating the process of holding peace talks with the banned insurgent group. Both the ULFA and the security forces, according to the pact, will not carry out operations against each other.
“We had a very good round of talks. The agreement was signed. The first round spells out the road to political dialogue. It is the harbinger of future talks,”Joint Secretary (North East) in the Home Ministry Shambhu Singh told journalists here. The pact will continue during the political talks and till a final agreement is signed.
The meeting deliberated in detail on various aspects of the ground rules of the SoO and how to maintain peace in Assam. Members of the rebel group — numbering around 600 — will be put in special camps which will be called “nabanirman kendras.”
Asked whether the ULFA cadres would surrender all arms and ammunition, the outfit's self-styled ‘foreign secretary' Sashadhar Choudhury said, “why should we? This is not a final agreement. This is a gentleman's agreement. We will see how the parleys go forward,” Mr. Choudhury said.
Last month, the ULFA submitted to the Centre its charter of demands which sought amendment in the Constitution for finding “meaningful” ways to protect the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam.
The ULFA's other demands include discussion on grounds for its struggle, status report on missing ULFA leaders and cadres (numbering around 50) and other socio-economic issues.