ULFA claims Delhi 'creating roadblocks' to peace

By Subhra Kanti Gupta in Guwahati

Guwahati, Oct 27(bdnews24.com) — One of northeast India's strongest separatist groups, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), has offered negotiations for reaching a peaceful settlement, but blamed the Indian government for "creating roadblocks."

"Delhi is adopting different yardsticks for starting negotiations. While it continues to talk with the Naga rebel groups without insisting on them surrendering weapons, it is asking us to give up our arms before talks start," ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said this week in an e-mailed statement.

"Why should Delhi ask us to surrender weapons when it has never negotiated a deal with any major rebel group by insisting on such conditions?" he asked.

That gives the feeling that Delhi is not interested in achieving peace in Assam through negotiations, Rajkhowa said, insisting "we are always for a peaceful settlement."

The ULFA has been decimated by a series of reverses leading to the arrest or death of many of its field commanders.

Indian intelligence says the new Bangladesh government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also come down heavily on the ULFA, booked its leaders in many cases like the 2004 Chittagong 'ten truck arms' seizure and arrested a number of them.

"Dhaka's tough attitude has made it difficult for the ULFA to thrive, so they will look for a breather," a senior official of India's intelligence bureau said.

"I am sure the moderate section of ULFA wants to talk," said Ajit Kumar Bhuiyan, editor of the largest circulated Assamese daily 'Pratidin'.

"But I am not sure whether the peace feelers have the backing of the outfit's hardline military wing chief Paresh Barua," said Bhuiyan, who was also a member of the now defunct Peoples Consultative Group (PCG) that was set up in 2006 by the ULFA to facilitate talks with the Indian government.

In 1992, ULFA leaders led by Arabinda Rajkhowa did open parleys with the Indian government but Paresh Barua opposed the moves and the peace efforts fell through.

The PCG folded in 2007 after Delhi called off negotiations, following three rounds of talks, blaming the ULFA for not enforcing a ceasefire.

The ULFA was set up in April 1979 to fight for Assam's independence.

Thousands have died during its separatist campaign.