The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa letter revives peace process

New Delhi , Aug. 31: The deadlock in the Ulfa-Delhi peace process was today broken by a communiqué from the militant group, assuring the government that the five jailed leaders whose release it wants before starting a dialogue would not abscond.

The communiqué from Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua was apparently delivered to Union home secretary V.K. Duggal by writer-mediator Mamoni Raisom Goswami.

A senior Union home ministry official confirmed that Ulfa’s letter had reached the government. He said the government was exploring options to find a “meeting point” between Ulfa’s demand for the release of its jailed leaders and accepting its conditions in toto.

Sources said one possibility was to allow the release of the five jailed Ulfa leaders — vice-president Pradip Gogoi, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, political adviser Bhimkanta Burahohain, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary and Ramu Mech — and keep them under close watch to avoid a possible loss of face later.

Delhi is expected to take the all-important decision during the scheduled inter-ministerial meeting on September 5 between the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of defence and home.

Another issue that could be discussed at the inter-ministerial meeting is the suspension of army operations against Ulfa. The period for which operations have been suspended ends on September 7.

Ulfa’s letter to Delhi mentions that it cannot take any decision on the proposal for a dialogue with the government until its top-rung leaders are freed from jail to complete the quorum in its executive council. The outfit wants to convene a meeting of its executive council before formally responding to Delhi’s conditions for talks.

Delhi has said it will release the five Ulfa leaders only if the outfit meets the following demands — a letter addressed either to the Union home minister or the Assam chief minister, expressing its willingness for direct talks and mentioning a definite timeframe for the dialogue and the names of its representatives.

The government has also been insisting on the topmost Ulfa leader’s participation in the proposed dialogue.

Goswami is understood to have asked fellow-mediator Rebati Phukan, who is in Mumbai, to come to the capital in the next couple of days to consult and discuss the development.

Sources said the Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group was likely to meet national security adviser M.K. Narayanan and other top officials, including Duggal, immediately after the inter-ministerial meeting.

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