Won’t mind if CM Himanta mediates in peace talks with Centre: ULFA chief Paresh Baruah

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Banned insurgent group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) said it would not mind if Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma mediates its possible peace talks with the Centre.

“We won’t have any objection if the Government of India appoints him (Sarma) as the mediator. He is capable. He knows our history and we have seen his courage, honesty and intent towards resolving the conflict,” ULFA chief Paresh Baruah told an Assamese news channel.

He said if the Government of India appointed an “Indian” (read mainlander) as the mediator, he would not know “our history” and 42-year-old struggle and sacrifices.

Baruah acknowledged Sarma’s efforts on the ULFA issue and said it had reassured the outfit as well as the people of Assam. He said the outfit was not averse to talks but kept its doors open.

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“Former CMs the late Hiteswar Saikia and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had made some efforts to try and resolve the conflict but the path they had chosen was not correct. Former CM the late Tarun Gogoi had also made an effort but did not continue it. Later, his government divided us by adopting the policy of divide and rule,” Baruah said.

Since Sarma has made an initiative, the ULFA leader said the outfit was hopeful the CM would be able to convince the Government of India and find out a way for talks.

“He knows it is a man-made conflict which needs to be resolved politically. If a process of talks starts with us, the Manipur groups will also come forward,” Baruah said, adding, “He (Sarma) has made a good beginning and we are hopeful the end will be equally good.”

The ULFA chief said the outfit had extended its unilateral ceasefire by three months to help the Assam government fight the pandemic and the menace of drug abuse.

“We appreciate the Assam government’s fight against Covid and drugs. We thought if we had continued with our military operations, the law-enforcement agencies would have been busy dealing with us. To allow the government to achieve success in what it is doing, we extended the unilateral ceasefire,” Baruah said.

He added that the ULFA did not want to create hurdles in the government’s fight to “correct” the youth.

His faction of the ULFA operates out of the soil of Myanmar. Another faction is lying low following its peace negotiations with the Centre.