As the arrest of ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa brought a pause in the underground life of one of India’s most wanted militant leaders, after 30 long years, emotion choked the family members of Rajkhowa and the arrested deputy commander-in-chief of the outfit Raju Baruah when they managed to exchange greetings on the court premises for a brief period after decades of separation.

The ULFA chairman became emotional when he and his elder brother Ajay Rajkonwar hugged each other after a gap of long 24 years. Tears rolled down their cheeks as the two brothers, separated since they had met in December 1985 for the last time.

“We became emotional as we had met after such a long period. However, he appeared to be strong and told me to convey to the people of Assam that he had not surrendered and will never surrender,” said Ajay Rajkonwar, with moistened eyes. Ajay Rajkonwar said the family members were hurt by the treatment meted out to his brother and producing in the court with handcuffs on.

However, the arrested ULFA chairman’s two sisters were not lucky to speak to him. He only touched their hands briefly in the corridor of the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) when brought for production, with security personnel surrounding him all the time. “We only wish they he and other two ULFA leaders should remain well,” said the two sisters in a choked voice, who were waiting for the whole day, hoping to get an opportunity to speak to their brothers.

Rajkhowa’s sister-in-law Bharati Rajkumari, who was awaiting in the court premise along with other family members since morning, managed to present him a gamocha, that she had brought for him. She broke down in tears after the brief interaction as the emotional moment reminded both of them about the secret killing of Bharati Rajkumari’s husband and eldest brother Dimba Rajkonwar in 1998.

For Bharati Kalita, widowed sister of arrested ULFA Deputy C-in-C Raju Baruah it was mixed feeling. “Was glad that I could see both Rajkhowa and my brother together after more than two decades. Hope that government and the ULFA would sit for peace talks to resolve the problem peacefully,” she said.

Bharati Kalita’s husband too became victim of secret killing of family members of ULFA leaders that rocked the state during the second tenure of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta-led Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). Raju Baruah’s brother Jiten Kalita said he could meet his arrested brother briefly. “He asked me about my well being. It was an emotional moment for us and it was difficult to hold back tears,” said the ULFA leader’s brother as narrated brief reunion with his militant brother after 24 long years.

Both Rajkhowa and Raju Baruah alleged that Bangladesh was behind the conspiracy in their arrest and they were handed over to BSF at the border by Bangladesh security forces.

Human rights activist and Secretary of People’s Committee for Peace Initiative in Assam (PCPIA) Lachit Bordoloi said that putting of handcuffs on the arrested ULFA leaders despite their willingness to sit for peace talks would send a wrong signal. While the government claimed that they have surrendered they why the handcuff were put on them? He asked.

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