ULFA executive discusses modalities for peace talks

GUWAHATI, JANUARY 20 (Agencies): The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Thursday began its central executive meeting aimed at working out modalities for opening formal peace talks with the government. The meet is being held at Choria village in the western Assam district of Nalbari with the group's chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa chairing the meeting.
Apart from Rajkhowa, those taking part in the meeting include vice chairman Pradeep Gogoi, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, and octogenarian political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.
All the top eight ULFA leaders are out on bail now with the government facilitating their release from jail to pave the way for peace talks. Several top leaders of the 709 battalion of the ULFA are also believed to be present in the meeting held under tight security provided by militant cadres and away from media glare.
Sources within the ULFA said that the resolutions adopted at the meeting would first be conveyed to the elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah for his clearance before Rajkhowa makes the decisions public.
'The central executive would decide on the modalities of peace talks and then the resolutions would be conveyed to Paresh Baruah for his approval before placing the same before the ULFA general council,' a senior ULFA leader said requesting that he not be named.
The ULFA leadership had earlier announced its decision to hold unconditional peace talks with the government - but demanded that all the top eight jailed leaders be released.  But the only stumbling block is Paresh Baruah - believed to be in hiding somewhere along the Myanmar-China border. 'Paresh Baruah is not opposed to the peace process,' the ULFA chairman said.
But noted Assamese writer Indira Raisom Goswami, known to be very close to Baruah, said the peace initiative currently on does not have the approval of the ULFA commander-in-chief. 'Paresh Baruah has not given the consent or approval for the peace process initiated by the ULFA leadership currently out on bail,' Goswami said.
Baruah telephoned Goswami several times in the past few days and the last call was received by her Wednesday, she said. 'Paresh Baruah is not willing to come and join the peace talks and it seems he is very stubborn,' Goswami said.