//India 'could free Assam rebels'

India 'could free Assam rebels'

Indian soldiers examine railway tracks in Assam

Ulfa has been fighting Indian forces for more than two decades

The Indian government has said that it will consider releasing some detained rebels belonging to a leading separatist group in Assam.

A senior Indian official made the announcement late on Tuesday night after talks with representatives of the United Liberation Front of Assam.

The talks were aimed at ending a nearly 27-year-old insurgency.

More than 10,000 people have died in the rebel group’s fight for a separate Assamese homeland.

The United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) was represented by an 11-member group comprising of journalists, human rights activists and lawyers.

We are happy with the outcome of the talks
Arup Borbora
Ulfa representative

Federal Home Secretary VK Duggal told journalists that the government had agreed to initiate a series of "confidence-building measures" including releasing the detainees and examine complaints of human rights violations.

"Both sides have agreed that maintenance of a peaceful atmosphere in the state to create a conducive environment for a dialogue is a prerequisite," he said.

India’s National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, was also present at the talks.

Another round of talks between the two groups is planned before direct talks with the rebels.

"We are happy with the outcome of the talks. We are also happy that a consensus has emerged," a spokesman of the representative group, Arup Borbora, is quoted as saying by Reuters.

"Our efforts would be to bring ULFA to the negotiating table."

Violence

Peace moves between the federal government and Ulfa had looked shaky after the rebels carried out a series of attacks last month, blowing up oil pipelines and targeting police and security personnel.

Two policemen were killed and more than 30 people injured in the attacks which came ahead of India’s Republic Day celebrations.

Ulfa is one of the most powerful of nearly a dozen separatist groups fighting Indian security forces in the north-east.

Most rebel groups in Assam, including the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) have started negotiations with Delhi.

Several Ulfa leaders held talks with the Indian government in 1992, but the talks failed to yield results.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4692092.stm