ULFA offers ceasefire to pave way for talks
Guwahati, July 12 (IANS) The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), one of northeast India's separatist groups, Tuesday offered an indefinite ceasefire to pave way for peace talks with New Delhi to end over three decades of insurgency in Assam.
'ULFA, with a view to exploring a lasting peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict, resolves to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period,' ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said in an e-mailed statement received by IANS.
ULFA is a rebel group fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979. The insurgency claimed some 10,000 lives in the past two decades.
'The ULFA General Council decided to initiate political negotiations with the government of India and has empowered the chairman of ULFA to declare ceasefire,' the statement read.
Barring ULFA's elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit is overground, on bail after most of them were captured in Bangladesh in 2009. Some were nabbed in Assam and elsewhere in India.
After the release on bail of chairman Rajkhowa and other top leaders in December 2010, the ULFA leadership held several rounds of informal talks with New Delhi's chief peace interlocutor P.C. Haldar.
Rajkhowa and the other ULFA leaders also had a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram earlier this year.
'We are happy the ULFA offered a unilateral ceasefire. From our side too we shall see to it that the peace talks get going soon,' Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
However, commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah and his band of followers, probably hiding somewhere along the Myanmar-China border, are still opposed to the peace talks.
'We would like to once again appeal Paresh Baruah to join the mainstream and take part in the peace process,' the chief minister said.
'But we cannot wait indefinitely for him to come and if their faction tries to create some problems, action would be taken against them,' Gogoi added.
A formal decision to reciprocate the ceasefire would soon be taken by the government, he said.