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September 22, 2021

Centre Gives Go Ahead To Assam CM To Hold Talks With Ulfa (I) Chief

The Centre has given the go ahead to Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to hold talks with the Ulfa (I) chief Paresh Barua with whom informal parleys have been on for some time now.

Sarma on Tuesday said that he had sought the permission of the union home minister, Amit Shah, in this regard. “I had asked him if I could speak to Paresh Barua directly if he agrees, to which he (Shah) has agreed,” Sarma said. “The Centre can take up the matter later if such a situation arises,” he said. He, however, said it was going to be a long drawn affair.

Sarma had invited Barua to hold talks with the government and give peace a chance soon after becoming chief minister in May. The Ulfa (I) leader had responded favourably and declared a ceasefire for three months which has since been extended by another three months.

The chief minister had earlier said that some persons were in touch with Barua to try and pave the way for talks with the outfit. Barua has, however, refused to climb down from the outfit’s demand for a sovereign and independent Assam for which it has been waging an armed struggle since 1979. “The constitution doesn’t allow to bargain on such a demand, so we have to find ways to get around it and at least start the talks,” Sarma had said while stressing on peace for the development of the state that has seen multiple insurgencies.

Almost all of the original leaders and other senior functionaries of the Ulfa have long dissociated themselves with Barua claiming their organization to be Ulfa forcing him to rechristen his group as Ulfa (Independent). The Ulfa has been in talks with the Centre since 2010, but these came to a halt in 2019 after the government interlocutor’s term expired and no replacement was named.

“Probably, the government wants to talk to all of us (including Ulfa-I) together for an inclusive solution,” said Anup Chetia, Ulfa general secretary and a cousin of Barua. PTI

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