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ULFA chief in Delhi
GUWAHATI/NEW DELHI, DEC 3 (IANS):
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Published on 4 Dec. 2009 12:39 AM IST
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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. “We are hopeful to get some good news very soon and the developments (about Rajkhowa) are moving in the right direction. The signals are encouraging,” Gogoi said. Intelligence officials Wednesday claimed to have taken custody of the 53-year-old Rajkhowa after he was reportedly arrested by Bangladeshi security forces and handed over to Indian authorities. “All I can say is that the ULFA can discuss anything, all issues, 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.” There are now indications that New Delhi was planning to offer safe passage to the ULFA leader instead of showing him as arrested to facilitate formal peace talks with the outfit, fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979. “If he wants safe passage, we are ready to give. All these issues can be discussed and worked out,” the chief minister said. A senior intelligence official told IANS that Rajkhowa has been flown to New Delhi late Wednesday and is being sheltered at an army base. That the Indian government was already in touch with the ULFA top leadership was evident when Home Minister P.C. Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha Wednesday that the ULFA leadership would make a political statement in the next two days. But the reported arrest of Rajkhowa has already evoked positive reactions. “We hope Arabinda 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, told IANS. 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. The Alpha and Charlie companies were the two most potent striking units of the ULFA. However, some of the jailed ULFA leaders Thursday said peace talks minus the outfit’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah would fail to yield desired results. “Minus Paresh Baruah, peace talks would have no meaning. Arabinda Rajkhowa alone cannot help in bringing permanent peace to Assam,” former ULFA publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary told IANS while being brought before a local court Thursday. 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.

 
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