Delhi bid to rope in Paresh for talks

The Centre has initiated back-channel efforts to bring Ulfa (Independent) chief Paresh Barua to the negotiation table.

By PANKAJ SARMA in Guwahati
  • Published 25.04.18
  •  

Guwahati: The Centre has initiated back-channel efforts to bring Ulfa (Independent) chief Paresh Barua to the negotiation table.

An official source told The Telegraph that as the negotiations with the pro-talks faction of the outfit has reached its final stage, the government has stepped up efforts to involve Barua in the peace process in a bid to find a lasting solution to the decades-old insurgency problem plaguing the state.

According to the source, central intelligence agencies are spearheading the "surreptitious" move, which is being monitored at the highest level of the Union government and the Assam government has also been kept in the loop.

"Already a direct channel has been opened with certain individuals having access to Barua, who is believed to be based somewhere along the China-Myanmar border, to persuade him to come forward for talks and a senior leader of the pro-talks faction is playing a key role in it," the source said.

"Though the process is still at a nascent stage, a couple of rounds of preliminary discussions with the potential go-betweens have been held in Myanmar and Europe," the source said.

He said though the government is hopeful of a positive response from Barua, it is not yet clear what stance he would eventually take.

In September last year, responding to an appeal made by spiritual leader and founder of the Art of Living Foundation, Ravi Shankar, to Ulfa (I) and other militant groups of the region to take part in peace talks, Barua had reiterated his group's stance of not responding to any peace initiatives unless the Centre considers "independence of Assam" as part of the agenda.

Notwithstanding the stance taken by Barua so far, the source said the government believes they would be able to convince Barua to come forward for negotiations as the public support for his armed struggle is on the decline and it is increasingly becoming difficult for him to recruit cadres from Assam.

Ulfa had split in 2011 with Barua forming Ulfa (I) when the majority of the top leaders of the outfit, led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, started engaging in talks with Delhi.