Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday said the government was still keeping the door open to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) if it agreed to sit for peace talks after abjuring violence and giving up its claim for sovereignty.

If the outfit did so, the government would welcome the militant leaders with gamocha (traditional Assamese towel, also known as bihuwaans, offered during the Bihu festival as a token of love), he told journalists on the Assembly premises here.

Mr. Gogoi said ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, the self styled deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua and other leaders of the outfit were arrested and handcuffed in accordance with the law as a number of cases were pending against them.

Earlier, making a statement in the House, he said five top leaders had been arrested during the past one month and only two members of the ULFA’s central executive council were at large. While Jibon Moran was in Myanmar, the self-styled commander-in-chief Paresh Barua was shifting bases in search of a secure shelter following the breakthroughs achieved by the Assam police.

During the past eight years and six months, 1,482 militants, including those belonging to the ULFA, had been killed and 9,360 militants arrested in the State, the Chief Minister said.

Meanwhile, Robin Phukan, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup (Metropolitan), remanded ULFA foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhury and finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika to judicial custody. He also called for the case diaries and fixed December 14 for hearing their bail applications, said defence lawyer Bijan Mahajan.

Scribes barred

The police did not allow journalists to enter the court premises when the two arrested leaders were produced before the magistrate. A strong posse of police and paramilitary personnel was deployed on and around the premises and senior police officials themselves physically prevented television camera crew and photojournalists from entering.

The police action came in the wake of the shouting of pro-ULFA slogans by a section of the crowd when Rajkhowa and Raju Barua were produced in court on Saturday.

Mr. Gogoi said those who shouted pro-ULFA slogans were anti-nationals, pointing out that Rajkhowa and Choudhury had been indulging in violence from their bases in Bangladesh since 1990 while Hazarika and Raju Barua also later set up bases in Bangladesh and indulged in violent activities in Assam.