Guwahati: The banned ULFA (Independent) has said the outfit has “no objection” if Assam Chief Minister Himanta Sarma is appointed the mediator by the Centre for talks with the outfit, saying he is a “capable person” who knows the historical perspective of the problem.
The chief minister has been repeatedly saying since assuming office that he will try his best to solve the problem of insurgency and his initiative appears to be “genuine and a bold step towards resolving the long-standing problems of the state”, ULFA(I) chief Paresh Baruah told a local television channel.
“If the government of India appoints him as the mediator, then we have no objection to it. He is a capable person who knows the historical perspective of the problem. We are hopeful that he will find a remedy to the 42-year-old issue,” Baruah said.
It is ULFA’s firm belief that as the chief minister is “fully aware of our struggle, he will be able to present the problem and its historical background before the powers in Delhi in a much better manner than any other mediator appointed by the Government of India,” he said.
Baruah said his underground organisation is hopeful that Sarma will be able to convince the Centre about the complexity of the problem which needs to be resolved.
Sarma knows that this is a “political issue created by political leaders” and it is they who must take the process forward to resolve it, Barua added.
Sarma, after taking oath on May 10, had appealed to the ULFA(I) to come forward for peace talks and resolve the issue.
He had recently claimed before reporters that an informal channel of communication has been opened with the ULFA (I) and said he was hopeful that the “matter will be resolved in the next two to three years”.
The ULFA(I) chief claimed no other chief minister has shown “this kind of genuine interest” to resolve the issue.
“He has been able to assure the people of Assam that a solution may be possible and so we are also hopeful. In an armed struggle, operations and negotiations continue simultaneously. We are not opposed to dialogue and our doors for talks are always open,” he said.
Barua said informal talks have taken place at different times during the tenure of previous chief ministers, including Hiteswar Saikia of the Congress but negotiations did not move in the right direction.
Two-time Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta as also Congress’ Tarun Gogoi did take some steps to resolve the problem but a resolution proved elusive.
“The policy adopted by Gogoi’s government did not lead to a positive result as he later adopted the divide and rule policy which led to the split in the organisation with a section going ahead with negotiations in which we did not participate, and formed the ULFA (Independent),” he said.
The chief minister, in an interview to PTI after assuming office, had mentioned that peace talks with the banned ULFA(I) can progress if the outfit is prepared to discuss its grievances without insisting on sovereignty.
“Barua insists that he will not discuss anything beyond sovereignty but I have taken an oath to protect it. These two are irreconcilable matters but if we can coin another term to discuss their various issues, then we can make some progress,” Sarma had said.
The ULFA(I) chief said, in the last 40 years, several accords have been signed -Shillong Accord, Mizo Accord and many more- but there was nothing new in those peace agreements.
The central government should move away from these accords and, if they want a permanent remedy, must find a new way by “understanding the whole issue in the right perspective or else many other organisations will raise their head”, he said.
The government should not adopt an attitude that they are the “victors and we are the vanquished and neither do we claim to be so”, he said.
The ULFA(I) chief said his outfit appreciates the efforts made by the present state government to tackle the covid pandemic and its drive against drugs, which has created a menace in the lives of the youth, and has responded by declaring a unilateral ceasefire in May this year.
“We are fully aware of our responsibilities and we are supporting these initiatives taken by the chief minister. Therefore, we decided to declare the unilateral ceasefire so that the law-enforcement agencies do not have to deal with any kind of operations against us,” Barua added.
The ULFA(I) had declared a unilateral ceasefire on May 15 for three months and extended it on August 14 for another three months.
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