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Peace Talks Between Indian Govt And ULFA

ULFA leaders interacting with students (file photo).

The February 10 talks between the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Central Government was just a familiarization parade. The ULFA leadership is now preparing the agenda for talks with the Central Government. Ceasefire agreement is expected to be signed only after both sides agree upon the agenda and basic parameters of peace talks. However, the present peace process between the two sides remains doubtful on the question of bringing peace in troubled Assam because of the counter development and strong opposition from the anti-talk faction led by its commander-in-chief Paresh Barua.

Paresh Barua and Major Jiban Maran backed by their two armed battalions strongly opposed the process of the peace talks between ULFA and the Central Government, saying that they will never compromise on the issue of sovereignty of Assam. On the other hand, the pro-talk group, supported by four of the total six armed battalions of the organization has formally decided to start peace talks with the Central Government without any preconditions. The 28th Battalion of ULFA is the most potent strike group. It is also called as the Kashmir Camp. It has its headquarters in Myanmar. The battalion was the outfit’s main source of funding.

Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, general secretary Pradip Gogoi, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary and foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhary arrived in Delhi on February 9 to pursue peace talks with the Central Government. As per the ULFA’s central executive council and general council the outfit will continue the talks without preconditions.

ULFA political leadership has claimed that its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa had invited both Paresh Barua and Jiban Maran to attend the central executive meeting of ULFA but the duo failed to attend the crucial meeting. However, the anti-talk faction put the blame on Rajkhowa, arguing that the letter was sent on January 16 while the meeting was held on January 18.

The outfit which seeks to establish a sovereign Assam initiated major violent activities in 1990 and the same year, the Indian Army began military operations against it. It is said that in the past two decades some 10,000 people have died in the clashes between the rebels and the Government forces. The outfit also lost half of its 1500 cadres and several important leaders disappeared during the December 2003 offensive by Bhutan.

In fact, the present development is a gift from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She has promised time and again not to allow the territory of Bangladesh to be used for anti-India activities. Several ULFA top leaders including the outfit’s Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief, Raju Barua and foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhury fell into Indian custody. They were arrested and handed over to India by Bangladesh. However, Paresh Barua managed to escape and presently, he is said to be in Yunnan, a border district of China near Myanmar. Paresh Barua worked in railway from 1978 to 1982 and for Oil India Limited for some time. Before joining ULFA, Paresh was a soccer player, who played for Dibrugarh district, and for the Dibrugarh University. Today, he is the only top leader of ULFA.

Around 2008, Paresh was in constant communications with Assamese author Indira Goswami who was acting as a mediator in a proposed peace talk between ULFA and the Government of India. However, the talks did not materialize because of the alleged insistence of Barua on the questions of sovereignty of Assam. Writer Indira Goswami was a leading member of the People’s Consultative Group (PCG). It was a citizen’s group in Assam constituted by ULFA to initiate talk process as mediator between the Central Government and the outfit itself. It was dissolved by Chairman Rajkhowa on the first week of February 2011.

Chairman of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), R.K. Meghen was also arrested in Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka in September 2010. Meghen has insisted on plebiscite in demanding sovereignty of Manipur. He wants the people of Manipur to learn lessons from what the people of Sudan and East Timor have done for independence. The Chairman is not ready for any peace process between the outfit and the Central Government without preconditions.

In 1999, following the UN-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of East Timor and it became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century in 2002. East Timor continues to suffer the after effects of decades-long independence struggle against Indonesia, which damaged infrastructure and displaced many thousands. Southern Sudan voted (referendum or plebiscite) in January 2011 to secede from northern Sudan. The splitting of South from North is scheduled to occur in July this year. In a more than two-decade civil war more than 2 million people died. Now, southern Sudan will be the 2nd new sovereign state of this century.

*The article is written by Balu Thongam.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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