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Rajkhowa ‘surrender’ boomerangs for Govt
Published on 7 Dec. 2009 1:15 AM IST
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The surrender drama in Assam seems to have boomeranged. The chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Arabinda Rajkhowa was able to generate sympathy instead of anger after the government apparently bungled on the drama they tried to enact. Dec 2: Reports of Arabinda Rajkhowa and few more ULFA leaders arrested in Bangladesh and handed over to Indian authorities in Tripura. There was no official confirmation from either Dhaka or New Delhi, leaving the stage open for wild speculation. On the same day, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram made a statement in the Rajya Sabha that the ULFA is in disarray and there would be a political statement from the ULFA in the next few days. Dec 3: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced a “breakthrough was made” and that the whereabouts of Rajkhowa would be known in a matter of days or hours. The chief minister said the government was ready to provide safe passage to Rajkhowa for peace talks if required. Dec 4: The plot gets thicker. Border Security Force (BSF) officials make a dramatic statement that Rajkhowa, along with nine more, including the deputy commander-in-chief of the ULFA Raju Baruah, have surrendered. Media reported that there was a vertical split in the ULFA soon after the surrender story flashed. Elusive ULFA’s commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah hits out at Rajkhowa in an email saying the chairman should clarify his stand on peace talks. Everything was going according to the government script - they were able to divide the ULFA. Rajkhowa and Raju Baruah were arrested and would be produced in court, the police said. Dec 5: There was speculation that Rajkhowa would not be brought to court like a terrorist but be accorded the status of a political prisoner as the government might try and use him for peace talks. The whole day passed and just after sundown, Rajkhowa, Raju Baruah and the chairman’s personal bodyguard Raja Bora were brought to court under heavy security - in handcuffs. Rajkhowa stepped out of the bus and gave a sensational sound byte. “There cannot be any peace talks with the government under handcuffs as prisoners cannot negotiate. I have not surrendered and would never surrender before the government and sovereignty cannot be compromised,” the ULFA chairman said. There were slogans of ‘Rajkhowa Zindabad’ (Long Live Rajkhowa) by the crowds as the ULFA leader and the other two militants were taken out of the court - clearly reflecting that the anger of the people had mellowed and a hint that the government’s game plan had boomeranged. Where did the government go wrong? “If the government was at all serious in utilising the services of Arabinda Rajkhowa for peace talks, then what was the need for bringing them to the court handcuffed,” said Lachit Borodoloi, a rights leader. “First the government said they surrendered, then you talk of safe passage, and then they are arrested and brought in handcuffs - all this is very confusing and immature handling on the part of the government,” said Dhirendranath Chakravarty, a veteran journalist and a bitter critic of the ULFA. “Today the slogans supporting ULFA that one heard in the court was clearly people’s anger against the mishandling on the part of the government.” “The ULFA has once again got a new lease of life after this episode and now holding peace talks by convincing Rajkhowa would be next to impossible,” said Nakibur Zaman, a senior lawyer. “The entire surrender drama is a major setback for the government,” Chakravarty said.

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