While addressing a press conference on Saturday, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that a middle path has to be found to bring the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) for peace talks. While a faction of the outfit has given up arms and is in talks with the Centre, the anti-talks faction headed by Paresh Baruah hasn’t agreed to surrender and engage in deliberations.
“ULFA-I has categorically said that it can’t discuss anything unless the Government of India wants to discuss the question of sovereignty. But as constitutional representatives who take the oath to protect the constitution and the country’s sovereignty, we can’t sit in talks on that issue,” Sarma said while addressing a press conference to mark the completion of two months of his government.
“These are two irreconcilable positions. If we want to resolve that, we have to find a mid-level approach. In order to find that middle path, some mediators have been conducting unofficial parleys between ULFA-I and the government. Talks will happen as and when we find a middle path,” he added.
Since assuming office, Sarma has been urging Baruah to give up arms and sit for talks. His appeals to the ULFA-I commander-in-chief led the outfit to release an abducted Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in May this year.
The banned outfit announced a three-month ceasefire in their operations in May citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The mediators carrying forward unofficial talks between us have been saying the ULFA-I chief’s overtures are positive. Now we have to create a road map for talks and hopefully, we will get some good news,” said Sarma on Saturday.
Formed in 1979, ULFA is the biggest terrorist outfit in Assam. It has been seeking the creation of an independent Assam through armed struggle. The outfit has camps in neighbouring Myanmar where its cadres are trained.