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Mamoni lobs ball to Gogoi
- Writer will meet Ulfa leaders, but…

Guwahati, June 17: Writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami today picked up the gauntlet thrown by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, making clear her willingness to walk the extra mile to bring Ulfa leaders to the talks table.

Goswami took up the state government’s challenge to meet the Ulfa top brass and convince them to come to the negotiating table. This came a day after Gogoi criticised her for not making any attempt to meet the outfit’s leadership, calling into question her sincerity and neutrality.

The writer told The Telegraph that if the government so wanted, then she was willing to “go abroad” to meet the Ulfa leadership. But, as she pointed out, she was not an expert on conflict resolution. She wants an emissary appointed by the government to accompany her.

Former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta also suggested that the government should send her abroad to negotiate with the Ulfa leadership. “We have seen that the government has sent former Union home secretary K. Padmanabhiah and Union minister Oscar Fernandez to Amsterdam and other places for negotiating with another militant group. Similarly, it can also send her (Goswami) to hold discussions with Ulfa,” he said.

On Gogoi’s observations about her role as peacemaker, the writer said there was little she could have done other than meet the Prime Minister and other central leaders to convince them to initiate a peace process.

The chief minister had criticised her for not making any attempt to meet the outfit’s top leadership to persuade it to come forward for negotiations.

Gogoi had even offered all help to the writer to set up a meeting with the Ulfa leadership.

Lobbing the ball back into the government’s court today, Goswami said: “As an individual, I cannot meet the leadership of a banned outfit on my own. I need to have sanction from the government to do so. If the government feels that I should personally meet and try to convince Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and commander-in-chief Paresh Barua to come forward for peace talks, I am ready to do so, provided they appoint an emissary well versed with the problem to accompany me.”

The writer even named Rebati Phukan, a close friend of Paresh Barua and a co-coordinator with her in the Peoples Consultative Group (PCG), appointed earlier by Ulfa to do spadework with the Centre on its behalf for parleys.

“I think Phukan is most competent to assume the role of an emissary because of his credibility. He is also in the thick of the peace process with me from the very beginning. As a result, he knows the stands of both sides,” she said.

She reiterated that her role was merely to bring the two sides to the negotiating table. “I cannot be an emissary myself. I am not qualified for the job. I can only be a bridge between the two sides,” she said.

Goswami recently called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking his intervention to restart the peace process.

“In another five days or so, I shall communicate to Ulfa what the government wants of it to start the peace process,” she said.

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