New Delhi: After more than 30 years of a violent insurgency, which has left thousands dead, eight top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Assam or the ULFA will start peace talks with the Central Government on Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, they met with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to iron out last minute glitches and then in the afternoon, the eight-member ULFA delegation flew out of Guwahati along with a 13-member Assam government delegation and arrived in New Delhi for the much-awaited peace talks after three decades of a bloody insurgency.
The ULFA delegation is being led by its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa. Along with him, vice chairman Pradip Gogoi, foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, cultural secretary Pranati Deka and ULFA ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain will be present.
Most of them have recently been released from jail in Guwahati as a part of a deal with New Delhi, which has now culminated in the peace talks. Many of them including Rajkhowa was arrested and handed over by Bangladesh to India.
The Assam government will be represented by chief secretary NK Das, Additional Director General of Police (special branch) Khagen Sharma and Home Commissioner Jishnu Baruah.
The delegation will meet Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday morning before holding starting "introductory talks" with Union Home Secretary GK Pillai and Centre's interlocutor PC Haldar.
As if on cue, Home Minister Chidambaram held a meeting of the Consultative Committee of his Ministry to discuss insurgency and peace in North-East on Wednesday where he pointed out that the Constitution of India is flexible and resilient enough to accommodate the aspirations of the people of the North Eastern region, which has over 200 ethnic groups with distinct languages, dialects and socio-cultural identity. These groups want recognition of their identity and participation in governance.
But the success of the talks is already being questioned after ULFA's elusive Commander-in-Chief Paresh Barua has rejected the talks from his hideout inside Burma. For years, Paresh, seen dancing with armed cadres in Burma, has called the shots within the ULFA. It has to be seen if the peace talks change that equation, because only then, Assam can hope for long-lasting peace.