India Govt. willing to give safe passage to ULFA leaders Baruah, Arabinda Rajkhowa

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Geneva, Nov.21 (ANI): The Indian Government has said it is willing to talk to any of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants, even give them safe passage so long as they give up violence. Unconditional talks is acceptable to the Centre, the only condition being that ULFA give up the path of terror, said sources.

"Some of these people are in Bangladesh and if they are willing to come to India to hold talks, the Centre will talk to them," sources said.There is a minor complication in this, ULFA is a banned group so will the Centre lift the ban because overt talks with banned outfits do not rather have not taken place till today," they added. ith two recently arrested Ulfa leaders expressing their eagerness for peace talks, speculation is rife that their outfit may also go the NDFB way soon.

As the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) had signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre and the state government in May 2005, leaving its chairman, Ranjan Daimary, out of the talks, security think tanks are of the opinion that Ulfa may also initiate peace negotiations without its elusive "commander-in-chief", Paresh Baruah, said a daily.

Sources hinted that Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa would be out in the peace stream sooner than later. Rajkhowa is reportedly still holed up in Bangladesh but under surveillance.

The mood in security and intelligence agencies is upbeat following the arrest of Ulfa's "foreign secretary" Sashadhar Choudhury and "finance secretary" Chitrabon Hazarika, who are members of the outfit's powerful central executive committee.

A couple of years before NDFB sat down for talks with the Centre, almost all its top leaders, excluding Ranjan Daimary, had been arrested. They were then released and the organization was reorganised with a new chairman to head the talks. Daimary now heads a faction of NDFB that continues fight for a sovereign Bodo state.

ULFA is currently passing through a similar phase, with most of its 15 central executive committee members in jail. One of them, Robin Handique, died of illness while he was in judicial custody in Tezpur. Another member, Ramu Mech, is on parole trying to recover from illness. Two other members, Ashanta Baghphukan and Robin Neog, are missing since 2003 when Bhutan flushed out Indian rebel outfits from its soil, stated the Daily.

Only Rajkhowa, Baruah, former "deputy c-in-c" Raju Baruah and another member, Jibon Moran, haven't been caught yet. "If it (peace talks) could start without Ranjan Daimary in the case of NDFB, why not the same for Ulfa," a top state policymaker on security issues quipped. It is only a mater of weeks before Choudhury and Hazarika join their colleagues inside the Guwahati jail.

Choudhury and Hazarika have both been persistent with their statements favouring talks with the government, provided Rajkhowa gives his consent, before interrogators as well as the media.

Rajkhowa, on the other hand, had issued a statement a few days ago that he would make his stand clear on the peace initiative soon. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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