New Delhi: The much-awaited peace talks between ULFA and the government is expected to begin next January, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said today.
Gogoi said Centre's interlocutor P C Halder has been engaged in initial discussion with ULFA leadership and would finalise the modalities of talks before initiating the process.
"I think the talks with ULFA will start by January. Things are going on in a positive direction," he told reporters here.
Gogoi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram in the last two days and briefed them about the prevailing situation in Assam and the proposed talks.
To facilitate their participation in peace talks, the Assam government has already decided not to oppose the bail pleas of top ULFA leaders, including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who are currently lodged in jail.
Apart from Rajkhowa, ULFA's self-styled general secretary Chitraban Hazarika and 'foreign secretary' Sasha Choudhary are currently in Assam jails while group's 'vice- chairman' Pradip Gogoi and other leaders -- Raju Baruah, Mithinga Daimary and Bhimakanta Burhagohain -- have already got bails.
"Release of ULFA leaders are not in our hands but in courts. But we will not oppose their bail applications," Gogoi said.
Asked whether elusive 'commander-in-chief' of ULFA Paresh Baruah would participate in the proposed talks, the chief minister said "door is open" for him and the government would not wait for him for indefinite period.
Peace talks with ULFA are expected to give a major boost to Congress -- which has been ruling Assam for two consecutive terms -- before the Assembly elections next year.
On the recent violence perpetrated by NDFB which claimed nearly 20 lives, Gogoi said strict action would be taken against anyone found indulging in violence.