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Delhi extends ‘truce’ period
- No discussion on freeing jailed Ulfa leaders

New Delhi, Sept. 5: Delhi today extended the duration of suspension of army operations against Ulfa by another 10 days, but the key issue of releasing five jailed militant leaders did not figure in the discussion mediators Mamoni Raisom Goswami and Rebati Phukan had with two of the country’s top bureaucrats.

It is the second extension for the informal truce, first announced for 10 days from August 13 and extended by 15 days from August 23.

Emerging from the meeting along with Phukan and Goswami, Union home secretary V.K. Duggal said the suspension of army operations would remain conditional. “We will request the army.....but we do not want any complaint of extortion or anything indicative of violence (from Ulfa).”

Duggal made it clear that Delhi would not hesitate to resume the army offensive against Ulfa if complaints came in about the outfit taking advantage of the situation.

On whether Delhi would free five of the jailed Ulfa leaders anytime soon, the home secretary said: “There is no reason as yet to not be hopeful”. He said there were “rough edges to be smoothened” and the government was focusing on the task.

Narayanan and Duggal had spelt out the government’s stand during their previous meeting with Goswami and Phukan. The duo said the militant leaders would be freed as soon as Ulfa sent a letter stating its readiness for talks and mentioning the date and the composition of its delegation.

The five Ulfa functionaries whose release the outfit has been demanding are vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, founder-member Bhimkanta Buragohain, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, culture secretary Pranati Deka and Ramu Mech.

Delhi has said it will give the jailed leaders the opportunity to interact with the rest of the outfit’s think-tank before formal peace talks begin.

Phukan, a childhood friend of Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, declined to reveal what was discussed at today’s meeting, apart from the extension of the period of suspension of hostilities. The mediator said he and Goswami had come to deliver a letter from the Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group to the Prime Minister.

He declined to say what the letter was all about. “It was in a sealed envelope and we were asked to deliver it.”

Appearing unusually reticent, Goswami did not say much either.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who was in the capital for a meeting with the Prime Minister, expressed satisfaction over the progress of the peace process.

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