A special anti-terror court on Tuesday released on bail two top separatist leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a move seen as an attempt by the government to help push the rebels towards peace talks.
Vice chairman Pradip Gogoi and publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary were given bail by the special TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (preventive) Act) court here.
The government prosecutor did not oppose the bail petitions.
"The public prosecutor did not oppose the bail applications of both the ULFA leaders and hence the court decided to release them on bail," Bijon Mahajan, one of the counsels, told IANS.
Gogoi, who has been in Guwahati jail after his arrest from Kolkata in 1998, is likely to be released Wednesday as some legal formalities are left. Daimary, who was captured in Bhutan during Operation All Clear in 2003 and later handed over to India, is likely to be free Tuesday evening.
"We also hope talks will begin and are confident that the jailed ULFA leaders will respond. We would hold talks with them with dignity and honour," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
"This is indeed a very positive move by the government in allowing the two ULFA leaders to be out on bail," added Lachit Bordoloi, a rights leader and member of the ULFA constituted People's Consultative Group (PCG) to explore possibilities for peace talks.
"We are all waiting for our brother's release from jail; a grand welcome awaits in our village," a cousin of Daimary said.
The two ULFA leaders are now expected to play a crucial role in pushing the deadlocked peace process forward with the government giving all indications of being soft on them to help engage them in opening negotiations.
"We sincerely hope both of them would play a very positive role in the peace process," said noted Assamese writer Indira Goswami, who once acted as facilitator for talks between the ULFA and the government.
Already lodged at the Guwahati central jail are six other top ULFA leaders - chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika, 70-year-old political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain, and cultural secretary Pranati Deka.