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ULFA-I chief refuses to budge on sovereignty issue for talks

File photo of ULFA-I military chief Paresh Baruah.

File photo of ULFA-I military chief Paresh Baruah.  

 

Paresh Baruah, elusive military chief of the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) has refused to budge from his primary condition for accepting New Delhi’s offer for talks — the inclusion of the sovereignty of Assam in the agenda of discussion. The ULFA-I leader, believed to be based out of the Ruili area on the China-Myanmar border, set his terms in reaction to the olive branch the Centre offered to the outfit after signing the third Bodo Peace Accord with all factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

Mr. Baruah has stuck to the issue of sovereignty since 2002 when music maestro, the late Bhupen Hazarika had offered to mediate for the Centre and the then undivided outfit. He backed out of a similar initiative in 2005 after the Centre made it clear that any issue other than sovereignty could be discussed.

 

On Tuesday, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma requested Mr. Baruah and his group to come to the talks table for resolving the 41-year-old armed movement. The ULFA was formed in April 1979, a few months before the anti-foreigners Assam agitation began.

“We can send a delegation for talks if the government of India gives it in black and white that the issue of sovereignty of Assam would be discussed,” Mr. Baruah said, pointing out that discussing the issue does not mean granting sovereignty.

In a statement, he also said any discussion must be held in Assam, not in New Delhi or anywhere else in India and members of his group must not be treated as a colonial power treats the colonised.

Mr. Baruah welcomed the Bodo Accord for being signed without compromising the territorial integrity of Assam.

The Assam government said the members of the NDFB would be surrendering before Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at an official ceremony in Guwahati on Thursday. A week ago, 644 extremists belonging to eight armed groups had given up arms. Among them, 50 belonged to ULFA-I.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 6:36:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ulfa-i-chief-refuses-to-budge-on-sovereignty-issue-for-talks/article30684614.ece

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