“Tangible progress” was made at the tripartite talks held here on Monday among the Centre, the Assam government and the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
“There was tangible progress in the talks. Both sides were satisfied with the progress made,” an official release from the Union Home Ministry said after the second round of peace talks, held under the chairmanship of Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh.
While the ULFA delegation was led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, the State government was represented by Chief Secretary N.K. Das. Among others, P.C. Haldar, the Union government's representative for the peace talks; Ajay Chadha, Special Secretary (Internal Security), Home Ministry; and Shambhu Singh, Joint Secretary (Northeast), Home Ministry, were present.
The talks, lasting 90 minutes and held after six months, discussed several aspects of the ULFA's “charter of demands,” which sought, among other things, an amendment to the Constitution to find a lasting-solution to the three-decade insurgency in Assam.
“It was a very constructive and fruitful discussion. I think we have achieved very good progress…,” Mr. R.K. Singh told journalists after the meeting.
Mr. Rajkhowa also termed the talks “satisfactory.” “We discussed all issues concerning Assam's peace and development. We all agreed to carry forward the dialogue process,” he said.
The observance of the ground rules, agreed to by both the sides; the surrender of arms; and a total halt to the operations by the security forces against the pro-talks faction of the banned outfit were some of the issues that came up for discussion.
The ULFA has sought an amendment to the Constitution for finding “meaningful” ways of protecting the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam.
ULFA's ‘foreign secretary' Sashadhar Choudhury said all contentious issues were discussed. He said the organisation requested the government to bring ULFA ‘general secretary' Anup Chetia back from Bangladesh. He is now lodged in a Dhaka prison.
In September last, the ULFA signed the suspension of operation agreement with the government, after agreeing to enter into talks. Mr. Rajkhowa and his core team met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram early last year.
ULFA's elusive ‘commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah has consistently opposed the talks, pitching instead for putting “sovereignty” on the negotiation table.