After convincing NSCN (IM) chief negotiator Th Muivah to resume talks, Sarma is now set to start the first ever direct talks by any chief minister of the state with Baruah in 42 years since the birth of Ulfa. Sarma has recently helped the Centre sign two peace accords with Bodo and Dimasa rebel groups in Assam.
“The Assam government has been maintaining some informal communication indirectly through a third party with Ulfa (I) chairman Paresh Baruah after the formation of our new government in the state. Yesterday, I requested home minister Amit Shah if I could directly talk with Paresh Baruah if such a situation arises. He (Shah) said I can. But when something concrete emerges, the talks have to be a structured dialogue.” Sarma added, “As of now, I have been permitted to start the preliminary talks with Baruah to give a push to the peace process. No conclusion can be drawn now. It is going to be long, long affair.” Few weeks ago, Baruah had told a TV channel that he would want Sarma to mediate the talks with the Centre and that he has complete trust on him. Prior to the split, the Centre had initiated peace talks with Ulfa several times in the past but never with Baruah directly. In 1992, an Ulfa delegation led by its general secretary Anup Chetia had met then PM Narasimha Rao in New Delhi but the talks failed in the first sitting. Baruah’s friend and footballer Rebati Phukan later tried to broker peace with the Centre on behalf of Ulfa, which, too, did not take off.
In 2005, Baruah roped in Gyanpeeth awardee late Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami, who was a faculty member at DU and a colleague of former PM Dr Manmohan Singh, and formed an 11-member group called People’s Consultative Group to initiate talks on behalf of the outfit. But the exercise came to an end a year later.