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secret life of Rajkhowa’s wife
Lakwa (Assam), Feb 14 (IANS)
Published on 14 Feb. 2010 11:32 PM IST
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It was a horror story full of lies and guilt for Kaveri Kachari, wife of jailed chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Arabinda Rajkhowa, having been forced to mask the identity of her husband from their two children while in Bangladesh. For Khamchen Bohagi, 13, and Gadadhar, 7, Kachari’s two children, their father Arabinda Rajkhowa was a businessman in Bangladesh and his name was Mizanur Rahman Choudhury. “I had to lie all the time to my two children to protect my husband’s identity and this really disturbed me a lot with a nagging guilt-feeling haunting me all the time,” Kachari, 42, told IANS in the first detailed interview after nearly 13 years of reclusive life in Bangladesh. “My children asked me various questions - don’t we have any relatives, about our ancestral home, customs, religion and many other things...all I said to them was a bunch of lies for long years so that we are not exposed.” For 13 years, Rajkhowa and his family lived in Dhaka’s posh Dhanmondi area in rented accommodation before they were arrested in December, with the Bangladesh government facilitating their capture. Rajkhowa is now in the Guwahati central jail while Kachari and her two children are living in her husband’s ancestral home at Lakwa in Sibsagar district, 390 km east of Assam’s main city Guwahati. “Every morning (in Bangladesh) started with a sense of fear of being exposed and home there is this fear of my children knowing the real identity of my husband and outside the home the constant fear of being caught,” Kaveri said, recounting the years lived with one of India’s most wanted fugitives. Her children were forced to learn the tenets of Islam with Arabinda Rajkhowa faking his identity as a Muslim businessman with interests abroad. “Yes, in school and other places they required basic knowledge of such we were never rigid on religion and during Ramzan (fasting month followed by Islam) we arranged Iftar (breaking fast with sweet and fruits) as all people irrespective of religion in the locality did so,” she said. “At a later stage, when my daughter was a little grown up I told her about my husband’s real identity and the cause for which he is staying in Bangladesh, but I had to conceal the facts from my son as he was very young and might spill the beans.” But amid the fears, Rajkhowa played badminton and did daily morning workouts in Dhaka. “My husband played badminton and did his daily exercises at the Dhanmondi Lake which is adjacent to Sudha Sadan, the residence of (Bangladesh Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina,” Kachari said. “People used to ask why his accent is not chaste Bengali and the explanation we gave was that since he stayed most of his life abroad working, his pronunciation and accent changed.” So did the ULFA chairman ever regret or disapprove of the killings in Assam blamed on the outfit? “Yes, he got very upset and often told me that certain killings were unjustified...after the Dhemaji blast (in which 13 schoolchildren were killed during an Independence Day parade in 2004 in eastern Assam, later claimed by the ULFA) we both were speechless for two days,” Kachari said. “My husband told some police officers, who interrogated him during custody, to release him from jail so that he could go to that spot in Dhemaji and face any public punishment for the bomb blast,” she said in a choked voice as tears welled up in her eyes. Kaveri was more than frank in admitting that killings should stop once and for all. “My husband has always been opposed to violence and today he is in favour of peace talks on ULFA’s core demand of sovereignty provided they are freed from jail,” she said. “He used to say that a large number of illiterate cadres have joined the outfit with arms in their hands and hence such unwanted killings could have taken place.” So, what are her views on the elusive ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah’s participation in any form of peace talks? “If talks are held on the issue of sovereignty, I see no reason why Paresh Baruah should not come and join the peace process. If he does not come in such a situation, I think it would be a mistake on his part,” Kachari said. Now back home and trying to come to terms with reality, Kachari wants to lead a normal life and educate her children. “I am hoping for peace to return and (to) lead a normal life,” she said. “I am not trying to seek sympathies or shedding crocodile tears by saying that we regret the killings, but we must look forward to a new life.”

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