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Ulfa for solution within PM’s tenure

Guwahati, March 1: The Ulfa group led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa has requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to complete the process of dialogue and find a solution within his tenure.

The group revealed this to the Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan (SJA) during a meeting here yesterday. Ulfa had met the SJA to brief the latter about its meeting with the Prime Minister last month.

The request assumes significance as the Centre has not set any timeframe for completing the dialogue, which is expected to begin after the Assembly elections, scheduled for April 4 and 11 in the state.

Ulfa vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi told The Telegraph today that the group had made the request because it did not want a repeat of the NSCN (I-M)-Centre peace talks which have been going on since 1997.

Another reason is the Prime Minister himself. The group feels that Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, is well placed to “appreciate” the state’s problems and expedite the talks. “We have been very straightforward with the Centre. We want a permanent and amicable solution. Accordingly, we have requested the Prime Minister to wrap up the talks within his tenure. We don’t want lengthy talks like that of the NSCN (I-M). The Prime Minister was equally keen to arrive at a solution within his tenure. Even home minister P. Chidambaram was very positive, assuring us that the Constitution would be amended, if required,” Gogoi said.

Going by the group’s request, a solution can be expected by 2014, the year Singh’s second innings as Prime Minister ends, given that all other factors remain equal.

In his interview with editors of TV channels on February 16, Singh had ruled out quitting in the wake of scams and scandals that have hit UPA II. He had said he never felt like resigning because he had a job to do and there was a lot of unfinished business. “I have never felt like quitting, I will stay the course,” the Prime Minister had said.

The participants at yesterday’s four-hour meeting also discussed the status of the agenda the Abhibartan is preparing for the group. “We have requested the SJA to expedite the preparation of the agenda. We expect it within a month,” Gogoi said, reflecting the group’s urgency to get the talks off the ground.

The chief convenor of Abhibartan, Hiren Gohain, said it would take a month or two at the most to finalise the charter of demands. “We had a formal discussion yesterday on what happened in Delhi and on the charter of demands. Ulfa has given us a wishlist which it feels can ensure the security and prosperity of the state,” he said.

Abhibartan had constituted six committees to prepare the charter of demands with each committee working on a specific area to secure the interests of the state. Of the six, three have submitted their reports. “We have got the reports on education, ethnic issues and demography-migration. The other committees are also on the verge of finishing their reports on constitutional arrangements, economy and administrative mechanism. Once we compile the reports, we will submit it to Ulfa which will take the final call on what would comprise the charter of demands,” Gohain said.

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