The government and ULFA are inching closer to a political solution to the decades-old insurgency problem in Assam as the banned group abandoned its key demand of 'sovereignty'.
"We have reached a point almost close to finalising a working draft. There are certain things which are still under discussions. But we hope the working draft to be ready very soon," Joint Secretary (Northeast) in the Home Ministry Shambhu Singh told reporters here.
After an hour-long meeting with a 26-member delegation of ULFA, headed by its 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa, Singh said the government has understood the concerns and demands of ULFA and trying to find out a solution to the three issues on which there were no agreement yet.
The three issues are protection of political and cultural identity of the indigenous people of Assam, land rights and illegal immigration.
"From the three issues, the Union Home Secretary will start the process of consultation with all stake holders," Singh said without elaborating.
Both sides discussed various aspects of the group's 'charter of demands' which seek amendment in the Constitution for finding "meaningful" ways to protect the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam.
The issue of ULFA demand for 'sovereignty' did not figure in the discussion.
Home Secretary R K Singh, who chaired the meeting, termed the talks as "successful" and also hoped that ULFA 'general secretary' Anup Chetia would be repatriated from Bangladesh soon.
Among other demands of the group include discussions on grounds for "ULFA's struggle and their genuineness", status report on missing ULFA leaders and cadres numbering around 50 including those missing since 2005 when Bhutan government conducted offensives, and some socio-economic issues.
The ULFA has entered into formal peace talks with the government after a 32-year-old violent insurgency movement. On September 3, 2011, the group signed the Suspension of Operation pact with the government.
Rajkhowa led an eight-member team during introductory talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Home Minister P Chidambaram in February, 2011.
ULFA's elusive 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah is still opposed to any dialogue with the government till 'sovereignty' issue is taken up.
Joint Secretary Singh said since most of the ULFA leaders have joined the peace process, the ball is in Baruah's court whether he wanted to join in the dialogue to bring a peaceful solution to the problem.
"Let the people of Assam judge him and his character," he said.