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Gogoi: Rajkhowa with govt
‘We are ready to do anything if talks progress well’ 

Guwahati, December 3
It is now official. One of India's most wanted fugitives, chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Arabinda Rajkhowa is in Indian custody, probably at an Army base in New Delhi.

“I cannot say how the breakthrough has happened, but all I can say is that a breakthrough has happened and maybe within the next few days or next few hours, you would know the whereabouts of Arabinda Rajkhowa,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists, confirming that Rajkhowa is with the government.

Intelligence officials had yesterday claimed to have taken custody of Rajkhowa after he was reportedly arrested by Bangladeshi security forces and handed over to the Indian authorities. A senior intelligence official said Rajkhowa had been flown to New Delhi late Wednesday and was being sheltered at an Army base.

“All I can say is the ULFA can discuss anything, except their demand of sovereignty, when they hold peace talks with the government,” Gogoi said. “We, on our part, are ready to do anything and even release jailed ULFA leaders if the talks progress well and if their release is required to smoothen the peace process.” That the government was already in touch with the ULFA top leadership was evident when Home Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the ULFA leadership would make a political statement in the next two days.

The reported arrest of Rajkhowa has already evoked positive reactions. “We hope Rajkhowa would now take the lead in pushing the peace process forward. We are with him if he takes the initiative to engage in peace talks with the government,” Mrinal Hazarika, leader of the pro-talk ULFA faction, said. Hazarika, along with about 150 rebels of the Alpha and Charlie companies of ULFA’s 28th battalion, declared a unilateral ceasefire in July last year.

However, some of the jailed ULFA leaders stated that peace talks without the outfit’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah would fail to yield desired results. “Minus Paresh Baruah, peace talks would have no meaning. Rajkhowa alone cannot help in bringing permanent peace to Assam,” former ULFA publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary said. Paresh Baruah, opposed to holding any peace talks, is believed to have sneaked out of Bangladesh about four months ago and is now hiding somewhere on the Myanmar-China border. Last month, Bangladesh had handed over ULFA’s self-styled “foreign secretary” Sasha Choudhury and “finance secretary” Chitrabon Hazarika to the Indian authorities. The duo is now in police custody.

Meanwhile, Gogoi said talks with ULFA should be held even without its commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, as most leaders of the outfit were now willing to talk given the changed scenario in Assam where the common people are asking for end to violence. “Who knows, he (Paresh Baruah) may also come later to join the talks process after it is started,” said the CM. — IANS




Assam on high alert

Security forces in Assam have been put on high alert apprehending an ULFA backlash following reports of detention of its ‘chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa. “A backlash from the outfit cannot be ruled out. But we have already alerted our security forces and we are prepared to handle it,” state Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said on Thursday. Security has been particularly enhanced in Sivsagar district, Rajkhowa’s home district and at all vital installations and crowded areas.



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