NEW DELHI, Feb 10 � In a first step forward in the ULFA peace process, a seven-member coordi-nation committee was set up to fix modalities and oversee a couple of critical aspects, even as the Centre insisted on non-interference from the pro-talk group with any military operations against Paresh Barua faction. �
The day one of the ULFA leaders� Delhi tour appeared fruitful, as the eight-member delegation led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa held the first formal round with Union Home Secretary G K Pillai and State Chief Secretary Naba Kumar Das. Minutes earlier, they met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in what was described as an introductory meeting. On Monday, they are expected to call on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Home Ministry officials described the interaction as an ice-breaking meeting. The meeting decided to constitute the seven-member committee with Joint Secretary (North-east) Sambhu Singh as coordinator. The committee would comprise three representatives from ULFA, two officials each of Government of India and Government of Assam. ULFA is likely to nominate three names shortly.
The coordination committee would look into the issues such as setting up of designated camps to house the ULFA cadres and thrashing out the surrender process.
A significant development was that the Home Ministry wanted the ULFA leaders not to interfere with any operations conducted by security forces against anti-talk group headed by Paresh Barua, putting Rajkhowa�s group in a dilemma.
Sources further said that after completion of the initial formalities, the next round of formal talks would be held sometime in May after the Assembly polls in Assam. Officials, however, indicated that a formal ceasefire pact may not be signed immediately, as an informal suspension of operation was already in place.
The ULFA delegation also raised the issue of Anup Chetia�s release. The delegation was told about ten pending petitions in Bangladesh Court, filed by Chetia seeking political asylum. Chetia has to withdraw the petitions.
Later addressing a press conference, Sasha Choudhury said that an offer for ceasefire would have to come from the Government of India�s side and so far none has come.
Welcoming the ULFA leaders, the Union Home Minister said that the ULFA leaders have offered unconditional talks with the Government of India and Assam to find an honourable and just solution.
�I welcomed them and assured them that the Governments of India and Assam would engage them in sincere and meaningful talks. I am confident that we will find a just and honourable solution,� Chidambaram added.
The meeting between the ULFA leaders and Chidambaram lasted for about 15 minutes, while the formal talks with the Home Secretary continued for about 45 minutes. The ULFA leaders who attended the meeting included vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, Chitraban Hazarika, Raju Barua,
Bhimkanta Buragohain, Mithinga Daimary and Pranati Deka, among others, besides the chairman and Choudhury.
The ULFA leaders including the vice-chairman, Chitraban Hazarika and Sasha Choudhury later addressed a press conference while Rajkhowa and other leaders kept themselves away. The militant leaders answered a volley of questions ranging from Paresh Barua�s reaction to the possibility of joining politics to the reasons for taking shelter in Bangladesh. �
Hinting at the need to amend the Constitution of India, ULFA leader said that Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan (SJA) was preparing the agenda. It would be later circulated among the people for comments after which it would be placed before the Government of India.
Replying to questions, the ULFA leaders declined to clarify what constitutional amendments they were looking for but referred to the Prime Minister�s statement in Hyderabad, when he said that the Indian Constitution was flexible enough to address the desires of all people. Substantive talks would be on the basis of the agenda of SJA,� they said.
Choudhury further clarified that they have come forward for talks on the basis of the three resolutions adopted by SJA, a joint platform of 18 organisations.
On the decision to drop the demand for sovereignty, Choudhury said that they were following the decision taken by the general council of ULFA, which resolved that ULFA members have to talk to the government.
On the impact of Paresh Barua�s rejection of the peace process, Choudhury said it would have zero impact. But he maintained that Barua was still the commander-in-chief of the outfit. �He may or may not join the talk process, I cannot say what decision he would take,� said Choudhury.
On the recent controversy over People�s Consultative Group (PCG), Choudhury asserted that the general council did not approve its continuance and therefore it is illegal.
When asked about the Assam Accord, Choudhury mentioned about the grave dangers posed by illegal infiltration from across the border and the move to defend the IM (DT) Act, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court and the attempt to bring it back through back door.
About the reason for taking shelter in Bangladesh, Choudhury said they were forced to do so because they and their family did not feel safe in the country. But the ULFA leaders� sidetracked questions about their reactions to actions taken by the Governments of Bhutan and Bangladesh.