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ULFA talks may begin in next few weeks

Guwahati: Hopes of holding formal peace talks with the banned ULFA have brightened with the Centre`s interlocutor today indicating that the dialogue may begin in the next few weeks, ahead of the Assam Assembly polls.

Centre`s interlocutor P C Haldar said the government and the ULFA leadership were inching closer to start the parleys for bringing a lasting peace into the Northeastern state.

"We have moved a little further. Now, I think, we are closer to the stage where we should start the formal peace process," Haldar, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, said here.

Peace talks with ULFA may give a political boost to Congress party — which has been ruling Assam for the past ten years — before the Assembly elections likely to be held in April-May.

"There are one or two things which remain to be tied up.

It should be done in course of the next few days, few weeks," Haldar said.

Top ULFA leaders, including the outfit`s `chairman` Arabinda Rajkhowa, have been released from jail recently after Assam government did not oppose their bail applications — ostensibly to facilitate their participation in peace talks.

ULFA `general secretary` Anup Chetia, languishing in jail in Dhaka since December 1997, is also likely to be handed over to India, possibly before April, to allow him to take part in the peace process.

Apart from Rajkhowa, ULFA`s `deputy commander-in-chief` Raju Baruah, `vice-chairman` Pradip Gogoi and two other leaders — Mithinga Daimary and Bhimakanta Burhagohain — have already got bail.

`General secretary` Chitraban Hazarika and self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhary are still in a jail here after their arrest along with Rajkhowa along the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya in December 2009.

However, ULFA`s elusive `commander-in-chief` Paresh Baruah is still opposed to holding any talks with the government.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi recently said that if Baruah came forward for talks, the government would welcome him but would not wait for him for an indefinite period.

The ULFA wants to hold its `general council` meeting before entering the peace process which is likely to be allowed by the government, even though it is still an outlawed outfit.

ULFA, which was formed on April 7, 1979, in the Upper Assam town of Sibsagar, was declared a banned organisation by the Union Home Ministry in November 1990 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

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