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Dispur push to free Ulfa leaders

Guwahati, May 19: Dispur’s recommendation to the Centre to release a few Ulfa leaders in state custody has cleared a major hurdle in initiating direct talks with the outfit.

This was revealed by chief secretary S. Kabilan after the swearing-in of the new council of ministers.

He, however, declined to divulge the details of the move, saying it would not be fair on his part to divulge the details as the ball was still in the Centre’s court.

The Ulfa and its handpicked team of peace negotiators, the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), have been demanding the release of 10 of the outfit’s central executive members, of whom five are currently lodged in various jails.

The outfit said their presence was needed in its highest policy-making body to take a decision on the peace process.

Initiating direct talks was a major pre-poll promise of the Congress.

Sources said all the five central executive committee members of the outfit figure in the list.

They are the outfit’s adviser Bhimakanta Buragohain, its vice-president Pradip Gogoi, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary and veteran activist Ramu Mech.

The new cabinet would also prepare a roadmap to usher in lasting peace, said Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was today elevated to cabinet rank.

Holding direct talks with the Ulfa was on the top of the new government’s agenda, which has surrendered Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) militants as a coalition partner.

Sources said the crucial third round of talks between the Centre and the Ulfa-constituted PCG is expected by the end of this month or early next month.

The chief negotiator in the peace process, Mamoni Raisom Goswami, was in touch with the national security adviser M.K. Narayanan to work out the modalities of the next round of talks, the sources added.

“If discussions with the PCG go well, this could be the last round of talks with the group before initiating direct talks with the Ulfa,” said a home department source.

The PCG was constituted by the outfit last year to do the spadework for its negotiations with the Centre.

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