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Sovereignty issue must for talks, asserts ULFA(I) chief Paresh Baruah
R Dutta Choudhury
 GUWAHATI, Nov 21 - If the Government of India shows its sincerity by agreeing to talk on the core issue of sovereignty, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) will also respond positively, asserted the outfit’s commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah. He also claimed that the ULFA(I) would be able to fill up the void created by the surrender of deputy commander-in-chief Drishti Rajkhowa.

 Talking to The Assam Tribune over phone from an unknown destination, Baruah said the ULFA(I) would not come for talks till the government agrees to talk on the core issue. “If the government gives us in writing that it would talk on the core issue, we will definitely respond in a positive way,” he added.

On the surrender of Rajkhowa, the ULFA(I) leader said that since its formation, a number of senior leaders and cadres left the outfit, but new members filled up the void. He said the ULFA(I) would always respect the contribution of Rajkhowa to the armed movement, but the void created by his surrender would be filled up. He said a new head of the western command of the outfit has already been appointed.

Baruah pointed out that since the outfit’s formation, the chairman’s post was occupied by three persons. In 1992, a large number of senior leaders and cadres came out of the outfit. Again, in 2010, eight central committee members, including the chairman, came overground to start talks with the government.

“They also managed to take away a number of district committee members as well as members of three of the four battalions of the outfit. But the outfit managed to survive even after such a setback. This proves that surrender of a few persons would not finish off the movement,” he asserted.

Baruah admitted that he is in touch with some of his former colleagues, who are members of the pro-talk faction of the ULFA. “We worked together for years like a family and there is no harm in maintaining a cordial relation with them. But we are not interested in the process of talks as they gave up their core demand to talk with the government,” he said.

The National Democratic Front of Boroland (S), which was a member of the umbrella organisation of the militant groups of the Northeast, came overground and signed a peace agreement with the government early this year. But the ULFA(I) leader said that it would not affect the umbrella body. “The ULFA was formed much before NDFB and the demands of both the outfits were different. The ULFA is not dependent on the NDFB for its survival,” he said.

Baruah appreciated NSCN(I-M) leader Th Muivah for not giving up the “demand for shared sovereignty with India and also the demands for a separate flag and constitution”. He said despite facing strong pressure, Muivah managed to maintain his stand.

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