New Delhi: For the first time in the past 31 years, leaders of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) opened unconditional talks with the Center on February 10 with the aim of finding a “just and honorable solution” to the problem of insurgency in Assam.
“As you are aware that they (ULFA) have offered unconditional talks with the government of India and government of Assam to find out an honorable and just solution to the issues raised by them. I welcome them. I assured them that the Government of India and Government of Assam will engage them in sincere and meaningful talks and I am confident that we will find a just and honorable solution,” Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said after an eight-member delegation of ULFA leaders, led by their chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa met him.
“They called on me which is a courtesy call. These are very preliminary stages and you (media) should cooperate and they will feel confident which will help to find a solution through talks,” the Home Minister said.
After meeting Chidam-baram, the ULFA delegation held talks with senior Home Ministry officials, led by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai. The face-to-face maiden session lasted for about an hour.
Among the top Assam government officials, who attended the meeting were Assam Home Secretary N.K. Das, Additional Director General Police Khagen Sharma and Home Commissioner Jishnu Barua. The Center’s interlocutor P.C. Haldar, Secretary (Internal Security) U.K. Bansal and Intelligence Bureau chief Nehchal Sandhu were also present during the first round of talks.
From the ULFA side, apart from ULFA chairman, vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, political advisor Bhimakanta Buragohain, self-styled foreign secretary Shashadhar Choudhury, finance secretary Chitra-bon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary and deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua participated in the talks.
Talking to reporters at a packed press conference at the Press Club of India, Choudhury termed the first round of talks with the Center as “cordial” and recalled the assurance given by Chidam-baram that the government would talk to them with sincerity and with an aim to resolve the ongoing conflict in Assam through negotiations. Gogoi and Hazarika were also present at the press conference.