The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamoni salvage bid after Ulfa salvo

Guwahati, Dec. 10: Hours after her initiative to broker talks between the Ulfa and the Centre ended in an anti-climax, writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami picked up the thread again and drafted another letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to explain some of the points raised by the banned group.

Goswami said Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua had not been able to personally contact her since rejecting Singh's offer to start talks, but had conveyed the outfit's stand 'through one of the boys here'.

'They are everywhere, you know,' she explained.

The writer and Delhi University professor said the Ulfa wanted a formal invitation signed by the Prime Minister to even consider starting a dialogue.

She said the Ulfa also wanted Delhi to clarify the 'inherent contradictions' in the letter that M.K. Narayanan, special adviser to the Prime Minister, had written to her. The official's letter was in response to Goswami's appeal for talks with the Ulfa.

In an e-mail to a section of the media, the Ulfa chief said yesterday that the letter was self-contradictory. He said the Prime Minister's Office had insisted on talks without conditions, 'which itself is a precondition'.

Goswami said she had already e-mailed a copy of the letter meant for the Prime Minister to Barua.

'I will hand over the letter to the Prime Minister if I find an opportunity tomorrow at a function that has been organised for the release of a book by Mulk Raj Anand. If that is not possible, I will send it by post,' she said.

In his letter to Goswami, a copy of which is available with The Telegraph, Narayanan said any condition set by either side would be an impediment to talks.

'Preconditions by either party for holding talks will not help. For its part, the government of India has avoided putting preconditions for talks with any militant group willing to come forward and hold talks with it. The Prime Minister has reiterated on many occasions, including during his recent visit to the Northeast, that he is willing to talk to all groups that are prepared to abjure the path of violence.'

Rejecting the offer, Barua said the Prime Minister 'did not even think it worth to give a personal reply to the sincere effort of Dr. Goswami'.

He said the letter also does not mention the subject of sovereignty, which the Ulfa wants included in the agenda for talks.

'It (the letter) does not mention anything about the core issue of sovereignty. Ulfa has categorically stated that sovereignty should be on the agenda for discussion'Under the circumstances, it is simply not possible for Ulfa to proceed further.'

The general-officer-commanding of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps, Lt Gen. A.S. Jamwal, said it would be impractical to hold talks with any Ulfa leader other than Barua. 'Any dialogue with the outfit should be held only with Paresh Barua because it is he who controls the armed militants,' the army officer said at Tamulpur in Nalbari district.

Intelligence sources in Guwahati said they were convinced that Barua was not interested in holding talks.

One official said the Ulfa leadership knew very well that the Prime Minister could not send them a signed invitation or officially agree to discuss 'sovereignty' with them.

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