Govt agrees for ULFA's designated camp in Assam

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Guwahati, Jul 7: The Union Home Ministry has extended the designated camp policy to the peace seeking ULFA faction allowing them to open up such camps in Assam like the NSCN or NDFB elsewhere.

This was confirmed by a senior Home Ministry official today, although the process was unclear about laying the arms, which the pro-talk leaders refused to part with.

''Laying down the arms is out of question. It would be like surrendering before the government,'' Mrinal Hazarika, leader of the ULFA's 28th battalion, told reporters yesterday.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said the ULFA leaders must surrender their arms.

However, the mediators and senior police officials, working behind the scene, prevailed upon the Chief Minister not to insist on the arms issue right now.

The first such designated camp will be established at Sadiya, in remote eastern part of Assam, where troops of the Indian Army will set up a security ring.

The Home Ministry, however, was not immediately expected to start any dialogue in the next six to 12 months, but watch and observe the process of the initiatives, sources added.

Mr Hazarika assured that no arms would ever be displayed outside the camp.

Last month, the Alpha and Charlie companies of the ULFA's 28th battalion, the outfit's dreaded striking force, announced a unilateral ceasefire, saying the central leadership has failed to protect the interests of the people.

The ceasefire group has appealed to the central leadership to hold unconditional peace talks with the Central government.

''We are not sitting for talks with the government. We announced the ceasefire to pave the way for our central leadership to see reason and come for direct talks with the government,'' Hazarika said.

The pro-talk group is now holding several rallies in eastern Assam to drum up public opinion for peace talks.

''The people of Assam want peace and that is why we are trying to build an opinion and convey the same to ULFA's central leadership so that they see reason and agree to come for negotiations,'' Hazarika said.

However, this has not gone well with the hardliners. Although there has not been any open confrontation between the rival groups but hatred has been brewing fast.

The hardliners rejecting the unilateral ceasefire blasted two bombs signalling more so in future, if pro-talk groups went further ahead.

Denying a split in the outfit despite the ceasefire by the two companies, Mrinal Hazarika, a pro-talk senior ULFA leader said the Union government should have no problems in discussing sovereignty, the outfit's core agenda.

''The Constitution of India was made by the people and amended also several times. Discussing sovereignty does not mean granting independence,'' Hazarika said.

''Let the government agree with us for unconditional talks,'' he reiterated.

Mr Hazarika was in Guwahati to meet the intellectuals, journalists as well as various regional organisations to study the impact of the latest development.


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