Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), and Raju Baruah, the outfit’s deputy commander-in-chief, surrendered to Indian authorities near the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya, along with eight others on Friday morning.
<b1>Border Security Force (BSF) officials took them all into custody soon after they crossed into Indian territory from Bangladesh near Dawki in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills.
There has been widespread media speculation that Rajkhowa had been caught and already flown to Delhi. Hindustan Times had, however, reported on Friday that the Ulfa leader was still in Dhaka and would cross over and surrender as part of an agreement reached with the government.
“We brought them to Shillong, where they were handed over to the Assam Police around 7.30 am,” Ravi Gandhi, spokesman for the BSF in Shillong, said.
In Delhi, Home Secretary GK Pillai said that Rajkhowa and Raju Baruah would remain in custody. The families of the Ulfa leaders, who also crossed over, have, however, been set free.
With Rajkhowa and half-a-dozen key Ulfa leaders now in custody, a senior government official said security forces would focus on Paresh Baruah, the self-styled commander-in-chief of the outfit’s military wing, who had been located in Myanmar’s Kachin region bordering China.
Sources said Chinese official agencies like the army were helping Baruah, not only on Chinese territory but also in Myanmar.
"Once we are able to build pressure on Baruah, it could help him see reason… that sovereignty isn’t really an issue with most Assamese,” a source said. But he acknowledged that the Ulfa hardliner had one advantage: a fat bank balance.
Raju Baruah, Paresh’s deputy who surrendered, has told security agencies about the Ulfa cadre receiving arms training at camps in China.
Ulfa’s ‘foreign secretary’ Sashadhar Choudhury and ‘finance secretary’ Chitrabon Hazarika — who had surrendered earlier — also told his interrogators earlier that the outfit was getting its arms from Chinese manufacturers.
“You can expect more surrenders over the next few weeks,” a senior government functionary said, indicating that formal talks with Ulfa — if all goes according to script — could begin by January or February.