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The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on Tuesday declared a unilateral indefinite ceasefire to ensure that the ongoing political negotiation between the insurgent outfit and the Centre can continue in a peaceful atmosphere.

In a statement, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said: “the ULFA, with a view to exploring a lasting peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict, has resolved to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period.”

Mr. Rajkhowa said the decision was taken in accordance with the resolutions adopted at the fifth general council of the outfit on February 22. He asked all members of the outfit to “scrupulously implement the decision in letter and in spirit.” He warned them that any violation of the decision would be considered as an anti-organisational act and shall be dealt with accordingly.

First time

It is for the first time the ULFA has formally declared ceasefire at the highest level, after 32 years of insurgency since its formation in 1979, to push forward the formal talks with the government.

However, a faction of ULFA cadres, led by the outfit's self-styled commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, is opposed to the ongoing negotiations. They are continuing with insurgent activities. The faction has been insisting on inclusion of “Assam's sovereignty” in the talk agenda, though the ULFA general council decided to open unconditional dialogue with New Delhi.

The general council, while recognising and respecting the desire of the vast majority of people of Assam for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, decided to initiate political negotiation with the Government of India and authorised Mr. Rajkhowa to declare ceasefire if the occasion to do so arises, the statement said.

The ULFA chairman stated that during the exchange of views the outfit had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, everybody had expressed the earnest desire that an honourable, meaningful discussion should continue in a peaceful atmosphere conducive for political negotiation.

The peace process between the ULFA and the Centre began after New Delhi appointed former Intelligence Bureau Chief P.C. Haldar as its interlocutor in June 2010 and the Assam government facilitated the release of Mr. Rajkhowa and other top jailed leaders on bail.

On February 10, an eight-member Rajkhowa-led ULFA delegation opened the first round of direct unconditional dialogue with the Centre in a meeting with the then Union Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai. They also met the Prime Minister and Home Minister during their visit to Delhi and urged them to take steps for “honourable and just solution”.

The Sanmilta Jatiya Abhibartan (SJA), an umbrella body of civil society organisations of Assam, which facilitated the dialogue between the ULFA and the Centre, handed over a charter of demands to the outfit on May 7.

The SJA charter demands constitutional amendments to give the State of Assam (as thereby its peoples) greater control over its own future through strengthening the State's power to control the revenues generated here, the natural resources, and the planning process and ensure a secure demographic situation as well as accelerated and balanced development.

The ULFA is expected to present its own charter of demands based on the SJA charter.

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