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Centre agrees to free 5 ULFA leaders
S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22
In a move which could ultimately help bring the ULFA leadership to the ‘‘direct’’ talks, the Centre today decided to “favourably” consider the release of five jailed leaders of the banned ULFA in consultation with the Assam Government.

An assurance to this effect was given by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to the People’s Consultative Group (PCG) nominated by the ULFA during the third round of talks between the two sides here.

During the two-and-a-half hour meeting held today in the North Block here, the Home Minister asked the 11-member PCG to impress on the ULFA the need to create a “peaceful and conducive” environment in Assam so that direct talks between the Centre and the militant group could be held at the earliest.

The ULFA had last year demanded the release of its vice-president Prodip Gogoi, Ramu Mech, Bhimkanta Buragohain, Pranati Deka and Mrinal Hazarika as a pre-condition for beginning direct talks with the government.

The group said these leaders should be freed as they were members of its central executive council which had to meet to take the peace process forward.

Besides Mr Patil, today’s meeting with the PCG was attended by National Security Advisor M.K Narayanan, Home Secretary V.K Duggal and Intelligence Bureau Chief E.S.L Narasimhan.

Although the PCG members and the Ministry of Home Affairs officials remained tightlipped over the time frame for the release of the five jailed ULFA leaders, MHA sources said the Centre was keen that the “direct talks” with the ULFA leadership began soon, meaning the formalities pertaining to their release would be expedited.

Meanwhile, in a statement finalised after the meeting, the PCG expressed satisfaction over Home Minister Patil’s approach to negotiations that will help usher in lasting peace in Assam.





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