Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday exuded confidence that talks with the insurgent United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) may begin within the next two months. The Chief Minister also said that efforts were on to bring the ULFA's self styled commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah to the negotiating table.
Emerging from a one-to-one meeting at the official residence of P.C. Haldar, the Centre's interlocutor for talks with the ULFA, here, Mr. Gogoi said that “the ongoing peace process [was] moving in the right direction” and he was hopeful of a peace dialogue with the ULFA.
Lauding the slew of steps initiated by Mr. Haldar in taking the peace process forward, Mr. Gogoi said that he was optimistic that the talks with the ULFA would be taken to its logical conclusion.
Mr. Haldar, who arrived here on Monday night, met ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa in the Guwahati Central Jail and discussed with him ways to carry forward the peace process. Sources said that Mr. Rajkhowa reiterated the outfit's position that the jailed leaders must be released to facilitate a meeting of the ULFA central committee to take a decision on holding dialogue with the Centre.
Mr. Haldar apprised the Chief Minister about the initiatives he had taken so far to prepare the ground for talks with the ULFA, and how to take the peace process forward.
Mr. Haldar's visit and meeting with the jailed ULFA leaders and Chief Minister came close on the heels of the desertion of the militant outfit's camps in Bangladesh by 20 cadres. Sources said that another group of cadres has deserted camps in Myanmar but details were still awaited.
Earlier on Monday, Mr. Baruah said that no ULFA leader or cadre, including himself, was opposed to an “honourable dialogue without giving up the outfit's ideology.” While admitting that differences had cropped up among the rank and file of the outfit on the approach to the talks, he refuted media reports that the outfit has split.
Mr. Baruah also pushed the ball into Mr. Rajkhowa's court by saying that only timely steps by the latter can thwart the “conspiracy by enemies” to trigger a split in the ULFA.