The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Security shield for Ulfa duo
- Mamoni extracts promise from Delhi

New Delhi, Aug. 21: Delhi has guaranteed security to top Ulfa leaders Arabinda Rajkhowa and Paresh Barua if they come for talks.

Writer-mediator Mamoni Raisom Goswami told The Telegraph today that national security adviser M.K. Narayanan and Union home secretary V.K. Duggal conveyed this message to her and compatriot Rebati Phukan when they met the duo on Friday.

“They said if Paresh Barua and Arabinda Rajkhowa come for talks, ‘we will give full guarantee for (their) security’. Two years ago, the Ulfa leaders were ready to come for talks to any place in Assam,” she said.

The writer, who has been involved in the peace process right from the start, said Delhi also signalled that it would soon fulfil Ulfa’s demand for the release of five jailed leaders — vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, founder member Bhimkanta Buragohain, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, culture secretary Pranati Deka and Ramu Mech.

“The prisoners are old now and in favour of talks. When they are so positive about peace talks now — they were so even before the PCG (People’s Consultative Group) began talks — they should be released,” she said.

The issue will come up for discussion again on Wednesday, when Phukan and Goswami meet Narayanan and Duggal. Originally slated for tomorrow, the meeting was postponed because Phukan had to leave for Mumbai.

Goswami said her “duty” would be over the moment Ulfa leaders came to the negotiating table. “I am a writer and my field is different. Of course, if they need me I will be there but not as active as I am now.”

Confident about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s commitment to restore peace in Assam, the writer quoted him as telling her during a meeting last year that he wanted to ensure that “blood is erased from Assam” during his tenure.

She said her rapport with Singh was better than that with other political leaders because they had often met as academics and the Prime Minister was “not a bureaucrat”.

On what was the Ulfa leadership’s reaction to the Prime Minister’s assurances, Goswami said: “Paresh Barua was pleased that, among other words, sovereignty was also mentioned. The Prime Minister said that ‘all your queries will be dealt with’, not mentioning the word sovereignty, yet including it in the discussion.”

Asked if she had met Barua, the Ulfa commander-in-chief whose only known image is that of a man of average build in a grainy picture, Goswami laughed but did not answer.

The former head of the department of modern Indian languages at Delhi University said her frequent telephonic conversations with Barua had given her an insight into what Ulfa was looking for. She was also candid about what was wrong in the actions of both Ulfa and the army.

Goswami claimed the violence that followed the third round of talks between the PCG and Delhi could have been avoided by suspending army operations immediately.

On the PCG’s role in the peace process, the writer-mediator said it did a good job of holding three rounds of preliminary talks with Delhi and set an example by remaining a cohesive group. However, Goswami clarified that Phukan and she were “facilitators, not PCG”.

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