The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unanimity in peace conclave

Guwahati, March 22: From a militant group in ceasefire to political parties eager to be heard, everybody who had a say in the first open brainstorming session on the Ulfa-Delhi peace process today blamed conditions imposed by both sides for the impasse.

“Unconditional dialogue is the way to go,” Dima Halam Daogah chief Dilip Nunisa said, echoing most of the speakers at the convention.

Organised by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam, the two-day session is meant to throw up ideas and chart the route to resumption of the peace process.

While leaders of political parties said neither side should impose any condition for coming to the negotiating table, some did see merit in Ulfa’s condition that its jailed executive members be freed first and “sovereignty” included in the agenda.

AGP president Brindaban Goswami and his AGP (Pragatisheel) counterpart Prafulla Kumar Mahanta spoke in one voice on the need for a “federal structure” for development and peace in the state. Mahanta went on to say that there was duality in Delhi’s policy on talks with Ulfa.

“Recently, when a 12-party delegation met the home minister to press for resumption of talks, he insisted that Ulfa should first give a letter expressing its willingness for talks. But when we raised the same issue with the Prime Minister, he told us that no such letter was required, provided Ulfa was willing to hold talks,” Mahanta said.

Goswami was restrained in his views, appealing to both the government and the Ulfa leadership to suspend hostilities and create an atmosphere conducive to peace talks.

The other political leaders who participated in the discussion included Nationalist Congress Party president D.N. Adhikari, Janata Dal (Secular) leader Harendranath Deva Goswami, Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad leader Prabindra Deka and and CPI veteran Bhogeswar Dutta. The conclave coincided with a fast-unto-death by the wives of some Ulfa leaders who went missing after the flushout operation in Bhutan in December 2003.

Apart from information about the whereabouts of their husbands, the women are demanding resumption of talks and the release of five jailed Ulfa leaders.

Ulfa today said the hungerstrike had added a new dimension to its “struggle”.

Sources in the chief minister’s office did not react either to the fast-unto-death or the start of the convention.

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