Peace talks with ULFA on right track, says Gogoi

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday said the peace talks with United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is on the right track and will continue even without the separatist group's commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah.

"We know Baruah for his anti-talk stance. But the peace process will continue and we will strive for a permanent solution to the insurgency problem of the state," Gogoi told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

"With all the leaders, including chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, expressing willingness for talks, the talks process is on right track," he added.

Gogoi on January 10 said the government wants peace talks with the ULFA to start as soon as possible, but added that a final decision in this regard has to be taken by them.

"We want the peace talks with the ULFA to start as soon as possible, but the ultimate decision has to be taken by them and not us. They have to sit for their general council meeting for taking a decision," said Gogoi.

"We have not thought about it now, but can give them safe passage," he added, when asked on the grant of general amnesty to ULFA.

Commenting on reports about the participation of ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah in the discussions, Gogoi said: "It is up to them whether he takes part in the talks. Our doors are always open. Will I not proceed with the talks if Paresh Baruah does not want to come? If he comes he is most welcome. Those who abjure violence can talk with the government within the framework of the constitution."

"I have made it very clear that those indulging in violence will be sternly dealt with and there will be no compromise," he added, when asked about Arabinda Rajkhowa, the recently released ULFA chief, threatening that he might take up arms again if there was no solution after the talks.

Earlier on Saturday, Gogoi said talks with the ULFA leaders would start soon.

Addressing the media in New Delhi, Gogoi said that ULFA leaders wanted to hold their "general council" meeting before conducting peace talks, and added the state government was ready to join in as soon as the meeting was over.

"You see, it is on the tracks, it is moving in the right direction, but how soon, I cannot say, but definitely it would start very soon. No doubt about it because they need some release of two-three colleagues, and release depends on the judiciary also, and it is not in our hands also," Gogoi said.

"Then they have to hold general council meeting so now the ball is in their court. The moment they are ready to hold the general council meeting, definitely talks will start and we are moving in the right direction. That is all I can say," he added.

Arabinda Rajkhowa has been demanding facilitating the participation of other top leaders of the organization, including Anup Chetia, the secretary general of the group, currently behind bars in Bangladesh. (ANI)