Monday, June 13, 2005

INDIA: ULFA Wants to Talk - Or Does it?

ULFA 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah has reportedly endorsed the negotiation process initiated by Goswami, but his statements to the media remain mired in histrionics and follow an escalatory trajectory. There has been a great deal of formalism regarding the character of the formal invitation from the Government, with ULFA insisting that it would not consider an offer of talks unless it received a letter "with official seal and signature". Six months later, after receiving the scanned version of the letter provided by the National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan to mediator Indira Goswami by e-mail on May 24, Baruah said that a letter "sent through the internet" would not suffice, insisting, "The original has not come as yet. We want a letter in the format in which we had sent our offer to the Centre," a position that was reiterated on June 10 by ULFA 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa. Quickly thereafter, ULFA has demanded the release of the group's arrested 'central committee' members on the grounds that a 'quorum' needs to be completed to discuss the Union Government's invitation. Four of ULFA's top leaders, including 'vice chairman' Pradip Gogoi, 'advisor' Bhimkanta Buragohain, 'cultural secretary' Pranati Deka and 'publicity secretary' Mithinga Daimari are presently behind bars.

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