NEW DELHI, Aug 5 � In what could mark the beginning of a formal political dialogue between pro-talk faction of ULFA and the government, the militant outfit on Friday handed over the �framework of charter for negotiation� to Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram and Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi. However, the ULFA leadership chose to tread cautiously on its �core demand of sovereignty� mindful of the pitfalls involved. Instead, they covered the core demand under the heading �grounds for ULFA�s struggle and their genuineness�.
Maintaining an ambiguous stand on the demand, the self-styled foreign secretary, Sasadhar Choudhury gave enough indication to suggest that they may be looking for amendment of the Constitution of India. �Sovereignty does not mean secession from India provided we have a political arrangement ensuring preservation of the identity of the people of Assam,� Choudhury said.
Earlier in the morning, a seven-member delegation of ULFA led by its chairman, Arabinda Rajkhowa met Union Home Minister at his North Block office. The meeting was also joined by the Chief Minister, when the ULFA leaders formally submitted what they called �Framework of Charter for Negotiations to Resolve the Issues between Assam and India�.
The meeting was followed by another conference which was joined by Union Home Secretary, R K Singh. Centre�s interlocutor, PC Haldar, State DGP, Shankar Barua, Joint Secretary (North-east), Shambhu Singh, and Home Commissioner of Assam, Jishnu Barua were also present.
Later in a statement, the Home Ministry said that the Union Home Minister and Gogoi welcomed the initiatives of ULFA to start the peace process. TheUnion Home Minister stated that the steps taken by the ULFA leaders for restoration of peace and normalcy in the area would yield speedier socio-economic development of the people of Assam.
He stated that the concerns expressed by ULFA leaders are of concern to the State and Union Government. He assured the delegation that there is no problem which cannot be resolved within the framework of the Constitution of India.
The Union Home Secretary stated that dialogue will be starting very soon on the demands of ULFA. He assured the delegation that the peace dialogue would be closely monitored by him. It was agreed that formal Suspension of Operations (SoO) Agreement with ULFA will be signed in a meeting to be chaired by Joint Secretary (North East) Shambhu Singh in Guwahati shortly.
The ULFA leaders said that negotiations would first start at the Home Minister level before the political negotiations gets under way.
Emerging from the talks, the Chief Minister told newsmen that it was a good beginning. Everybody is interested about development of Assam. The ULFA group has expressed their desire to come for negotiation and an amicable solution.
Gogoi also positively responded, when asked whether the government was willing to amend the law. If the law needs to be amended for development and peace of Assam, then if required it would be changed, he said.
The Chief Minister however, admitted that Paresh Barua faction was trying to forment trouble in the State. Without taking names, he said there are forces trying to disturb the peace, he said.
Gogoi, however, declined to comment on the demands made by ULFA, pointing out that he has not yet gone through the charter of demands. �We are open minded and sincere in resolving the problem,� he said.
Later, addressing a press conference the ULFA foreign secretary, who was accompanied by vice-chairman, Pradip Gogoi and finance secretary, Chitraban Hazarika, said status report on missing ULFA cadres was going to be one of their prime demands. He stated that an estimated 50 ULFA cadres were missing.
Choudhury said they have not submitted their list of demands in details, as they were still in the process of consultation. The detailed agenda would come out when negotiations take place. It is a 320-page document that was submitted by Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan.
On the demand for preservation of the people, he said National Register of Citizen 1951 could be basis of settlement.
Asked about the response of Paresh Barua, he said so far the commander-in-chief has not made any comment on the peace process, though some leaders of his faction has been opposing the process. He also added that they are in touch with Barua though the link has snapped about 15 days back.
About Anup Chetia, he said they were given to understand that he may be released within weeks. He also clarified that Chetia would be joining the peace process once released.