TODAY -

Govt-ULFA ink ceasefire agreement
Source: The Sangai Express / PTI/TNN

New Delhi/Guwahati, September 03 2011: In its effort to bring lasting peace in Assam, the government today signed an agreement with the banned ULFA to end violence in the troubled north eastern state and set the ball rolling for peace talks.

The Suspension of Operation (SoO) pact, signed by the representatives of central and Assam governments and ULFA, will ensure that the outfit will not carry out any subversive activities till finding a political solution to the vexed insurgency problem while the security forces will also not take any action against the ULFA cadres.

"We had a very good round of talks.

The SoO agreement was signed.

The first round spells out the road to political dialogue.

It is the harbinger of future talks," Joint Secretary (Northeast) in the Ministry of Home Affairs Shambhu Singh told reporters here.

The SoO pact will continue during the political talks and till a final agreement is signed.

The meeting deliberated in detail on various aspects of the ground rules of the SoO and how to maintain peace in Assam.

Members of the rebel group numbering around 600 will be put in special camps which will be called as 'nabanirman kendras' .

Asked whether ULFA cadres will surrender all arms and ammunition, the outfit's 'foreign secretary' Sashadhar Choudhury shot back saying, "why should we? This is not a final agreement" .

"This is a gentleman's agreement.

We will see how the parleys go forward," Choudhury said.

Last month, ULFA had submitted to the Centre its 'charter of demands' which sought amendment in the Constitution for finding "meaningful" ways to protect the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam.

The group also demanded change of rules and law and said a solution to their demands was not possible under the provisions of the existing Constitution.

The other demands of the ULFA include discussion on grounds for "ULFA's struggle and their genuineness", status report on missing ULFA leaders and cadres numbering around 50 including those missing since 2005 when the Bhutan government conducted an offensive against the outfit and other socio-economic issues.

Those who signed today's SoO agreement include Joint Secretary Singh, Assam Home Commissioner Jishnu Baruah, ULFA's Choudhury, 'finance secretary' Chitrabon Hazarika, and 'deputy commander-in-chief' Raju Baruah.

This was ULFA's first formal peace talks with the government in its 32-year-old history.

So far, only preliminary talks between the ULFA and Centre's interlocutor PC Haldar have been held in Guwahati.

ULFA's elusive 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah is still opposed to any dialogue with the govt till 'sovereignty' issue is not on the table.

The three representatives signed the tripartite agreement to abjure violence from their end to lay the ground for starting the political dialogue.

The suspension of operation would, however, be not be applicable to those Ulfa cadres who violates the ceasefire ground rules and government operations would continue against those cadres, Raju Barua told TOI.

An MHA statement said, "A tripartite agreement for Suspension of Operations (SoO) against Ulfa was signed here today.

Ulfa had earlier agreed to abjure violence and find a solution to the problems as perceived by them through peaceful negotiations with the government of India and government of Assam" .

"This meeting was more of a confidence building nature to ensure that the peace talks progress without any hitches.

The suspension of operation was already there and we only formalized it today," Raju Baruah said.

The talks will take place every month and the first political dialogue is expected to take place in the next meeting in October.

This is the second attempt by both government and Ulfa to find a solution through peace talks.

The first in 1992 with then prime minister Narasimha Rao failed after the first round.


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