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Wary Delhi lobs ball back to Ulfa court
- Decision on release after response to letter

New Delhi/Guwahati, June 9: Delhi will not take any decision on the Ulfa’s demand for the release of some of its jailed functionaries until the outfit responds to a formal letter from national security adviser M.K. Narayanan.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who raised the issue today during a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Narayanan, said the onus was on the Ulfa leadership to remove the doubts that Delhi has about the peace initiative.

Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua said recently that he alone could not take a decision on Delhi’s offer of talks. Naming 10 comrades, he said they should be freed to enable them to attend a conclave and help him take the appropriate decision.

The Ulfa leaders jailed in Assam include vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, “Major” Ramu Mech, Robin Handique and the outfit’s eldest member, Bhimkanta Buragohain. Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia is in prison in Bangladesh.

The chief minister said his government would continue playing the role of a facilitator. “I had talks with both the Prime Minister and the national security adviser. I was told that the Centre is not in a position to respond unless it gets a formal response to Narayanan’s letter. The next step in this direction will be taken by the Centre only after Ulfa’s formal response. Ulfa is free to make a formal response to us, which we will convey to the Centre.”

The Prime Minister’s Office, which had e-mailed its response to Ulfa’s conditions for talks through mediator Mamoni Raisom Goswami, sent a formal letter to the outfit three days ago. “Ulfa should have got the formal letter written by Narayanan by now. I am sure Ulfa will soon respond to the letter,” Goswami, an award-winning writer, said.

In Guwahati, the jailed Ulfa vice-chairman ruled out a repeat of the 1991 disappearing act by some leaders of the banned outfit if the Assam government again released some imprisoned functionaries. “There is a vast difference between the situation then and now. People want peace and our leader has taken the initiative to fulfil their wish,” he said on the sidelines of a hearing at the special TADA court, where he was produced along with Pranati.

In 1991, some top Ulfa leaders, including general secretary Anup Chetia and former central publicity secretary Sunil Nath, went missing while on parole after holding a round of talks with the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Pradip said there was no question of Ulfa leaders resorting to the same strategy, considering the outfit’s keenness to take the peace process forward. He said the ball was now in the government’s court. “If the government is sincere, it should facilitate our release to start the dialogue,” he said.

The Ulfa vice-chairman said he was hopeful that once the dialogue started, it would lead to a breakthrough.

Pranati, too, harped on the importance of a quick decision on the release of jailed Ulfa leaders. “It is essential because our constitution stipulates that no important decision can be taken without a quorum in the central executive,” she said.

The Ulfa cultural secretary complained that the government was not providing her the medical attention she needs. She was arrested last year on the Assam-Meghalaya border while trying to sneak into the state for medical treatment. She had jumped bail earlier.

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