The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa backers doubt Delhi

New Delhi, Sept. 26: A communiqué issue by Delhi in May last year, expressing satisfaction over Ulfa’s willingness to hold peace talks, has raised doubts over whether the Centre is actually interested in establishing a permanent truce with the outfit.

In the letter, dated May 24, 2005, national security adviser M.K. Narayanan communicated to outfit chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa that the Centre was happy with the outfit’s willingness to talk, a source disclosed. Yet, last month the Centre insisted that the outfit should write a letter affirming its commitment to peace.

Ulfa wrote a letter last year to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing its willingness for peace talks. Whereas Ulfa’s letter was not made public, the content of an acknowledgement to that letter by Narayanan reveal that Singh was happy with the outfit’s commitment.

Narayanan is understood to have conveyed the Prime Minister’s sentiments that Manmohan Singh was happy that the outfit has reposed faith in a peace dialogue.

This has raised uncomfortable questions as to why the Centre has sought another letter afresh from the militant group.

Sources said the communication from the Prime Minister’s Office in May 2005 did not reflect the Centre’s insistence — which it displayed recently — that top leaders Paresh Barua and Rajkhowa would have to be brought to the negotiating table. “Moreover, if a letter was already written by Ulfa, why another one'” questioned a source involved in the peace process.

The PMO is now facing accusations, mainly from Ulfa sympathisers, that the process of dialogue began with the Prime Minister’s personal interest — Manmohan Singh is a Rajya Sabha member from Assam — and ended with the army’s success in influencing the Prime Minister’s decision.

Nevertheless, the government has an escape route open. This is the communication by Narayanan that a process of dialogue cannot be carried forward if the outfit indulges in violence. Counter-insurgency operations against the outfit began in the wake of widespread extortion and killing of a tea estate manager in Assam last week.

Mediator Mamoni Raisom Goswami said she has criticised the outfit for violence when the process of liaisoning with the government was at a crucial juncture. “That (killing) was a mistake,” she added.

The People’s Consultative Group (PCG), which was expected to convince the outfit not to indulge in acts of violence, has also come under the scanner.

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