|Headlines Vol. 2 Issue 31-32||Dec.22-Jan.6, 2000|
Assam Govt. welcomes "surrender" by ULFA, BLT cadres
134 United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and Bodo Liberation Tiger (BLT) militants surrendered before the common people in Assam recently.There was nothing official about it. Neither was there any dignitary present nor the Governor, Chief Minister or somebody from the Army top brass. The few security personnel looked on from a distance.
Top ultras who joined the mainstream included ULFA western region commander Binoy Rava. There were also other leaders such as Parag Dhar Chaliha and Bidyut Karji. None of the usual official organs were involved. A function was organised for this purpose near Guwahati by the "coordination committee of former ULFA members". An ambulance was also donated for the area. There was spontaneous applause from the spectators as the militants introduced themselves before denouncing violence.
This is the first time since the surrender process began way back in 1993 that the militants joined the mainstream in this manner. But there was no surrender of weapons.One of the leaders of the coordination committee of former ULFA members Sunil Nath, said they would take more such initiatives to make the militants surrender on their own."We were expecting around ten to 15 guys in the morning. But the ultimate figure was beyond imagination," he said trying to get the exact number, at the conclusion of the function, from an aide.
Some of the ULFA cadres who joined the mainstream said they had chosen the path because they did not want to surrender before the authorities. "We have realised that the path is wrong and have returned to public life and people have also accepted us, said Parag Dhar Chaliha, who led the group.
"We would continue to strive for the cherished goal. But the path of violence was wrong, said the ULFA leader who was an influential member of the fronts political wing. However, the main attraction was Lt. Binoy Rava. The commander of ULFAs western zone and a veteran of the 1986 batch, he admitted that he had been awarded the death penalty by the ULFA because of his opposition to some of their activities.Mr. Nath later said that these militants would go through the formal process of joining the mainstream with the police at the local level but till the process was completed and they were officially recognised as former ULFA members, they would be looked after by the coordination committee of the former ULFA.
Amongst the 134 ultras, there were 117 ULFA members and 17 from the BLT. They were from Darrang, Goalpara and Kamrup districts.Meanwhile, former ULFA Kamrup district commander Atul Das, who was present at the meeting, said that there were more ULFA boys present in the meeting. "They are observing and many of them will soon follow the suit. As many of them do not want to go through the process of surrendering before dignitaries which is sometimes agonising, said the former leader.A.K. Pachani, a local police official was also present. He said that these militants would have to go through the formal process and after the verification they would be eligible for the rehabilitation package.
Later delivering a lecture veteran left leader Kamini Sharma praised the initiative of the former ULFA members to begin a new process of bringing their former cadres to the mainstream.Mr. Nath added that the district- level former ULFA members had also expressed their willingness to organise such unofficial public functions paving the way for more ULFA cadres to join the mainstream.
Meanwhile, the Assam Government welcomed the "surrender" by 135 extremists of the banned ULFA and the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) at a function organised by the Coordination Committee of former ULFAs in Kamrup district of Assam.
Stating that the surrender was not organised at the initiative of the state administration or the security forces, a government spokesman said that such a voluntary move by the misguided youths was a positive sign for the restoration of peace in the State.Altogether 118 ULFA ultras belonging to Goalpara, Kamrup and Barpeta as well as 17 BLT rebels announced at a low key public function at Pub-Kamrup College their return to the mainstream recently.
With the Army and paramilitary forces clarifying that they
were neither involved nor informed about the surrender ceremony, they said, "no arms
were surrendered at the function. The militants only announced their decision to join the
mainstream." "We are checking whether they have any militancy record," was
the common refrain from the security forces.
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