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16-member pro-talks ULFA delegation leaves for New Delhi for signing peace accord

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NewsDrum Desk
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Guwahati, Dec 27 (PTI) A 16-member delegation of ULFA pro-talks faction led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa left for New Delhi on Wednesday for the proposed signing of a tripartite peace accord with the central and the state governments on December 29.

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Besides Rajkhowa, other senior members of the delegation comprises the outfit's foreign secretary Sasadhar Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua, among others.

The outfit's general secretary, Anup Chetia, has been camping in New Delhi since Monday and held talks with peace interlocutor AK Mishra on Tuesday.

Rajkhowa told reporters at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport here before their departure that they were ''optimistic that the accord will be in the interest of the people of Assam and will resolve a long-standing issue''.

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He said the peace talks, which began in 2011, was a long process of discussions and negotiations but ''we are now going to New Delhi with the hope that there will be an amicable solution''.

Union home ministry officials were likely to hold talks with the ULFA leaders on Wednesday evening.

The peace accord was likely to be signed on December 29 in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

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The Centre had sent a draft of the proposed agreement to the pro-talks faction in April this year. Another round of discussions were held with the faction in New Delhi in August.

In October, Chetia had said they had sent their suggestions regarding the draft proposals to the Centre.

The ULFA was formed at Rang Ghar in Sivasagar in 1979 and was banned in 1990 when it started an armed conflict against the state.

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The outfit split into two factions in 2011 when the pro-talk faction led by Rajkhowa decided to return to the state from abroad and participate in peace talks while the other group ULFA (Independent), led by its commander Paresh Barua, was opposed to negotiations unless the 'sovereignty' clause was included.

The pro-talk ULFA had submitted a 12-point charter of demands on which the talks should be held and these include constitutional and political arrangements and reforms, protection of the identity and material resources of the local indigenous population of Assam, financial and economic arrangements, status report on missing ULFA leaders and cadres, amnesty, reintegration and rehabilitation of ULFA members and affected people, settlement of all royalties on mines/minerals including oil on a retrospective compensatory basis and rights of independent use for a sustainable economic development in future.

The demand of the pro-talk faction also encompassed the right to engage in specific relationships with foreign countries for promotion of mutual trade, commerce and cultural relationship, restoration, protection, preservation and spread of indigenous culture of Assam.

The chief minister on assuming office in 2021 had sent out an olive branch to the ULFA(I) for talks with the latter announcing a ceasefire of operations. However, recently the outfit carried out three blasts in Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Jorhat which they claimed was in response to the ‘arrogant’ attitude of Director General of Police G P Singh.

The police retaliated by injuring five persons, two suspected ULFA(I) linkmen and three youth who were allegedly on their way to join the outfit, in shoot-outs. PTI DG DG MNB

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