Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai says a number of top commanders and leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) based in Bangladesh and Myanmar are expected to surrender shortly and join the peace process.
“Some of them are senior leaders and commanders based in Bangladesh and Myanmar who have expressed their willingness to come over ground,” Mr. Pillai told IANS in an interview here.
Mr. Pillai was in Meghalaya on a three-day visit to review the security situation that concluded on Saturday.
“The Assam government has already initiated the peace process with the ULFA and we are very optimistic about a settlement,” the Home Secretary said in Guwahati while returning to New Delhi after his trip to Meghalaya.
He said the presence of the elusive ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah was important for the peace talks, but claimed the rebel leader would find himself in a spot if he keeps away from the dialogue process.
“Paresh Baruah would be marginalised if he remains adamant and fails to respect the voices of the people of Assam,” the Home Secretary said.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi last week set the ball rolling by way of a Cabinet decision to open peace talks with the ULFA leadership, majority of them in jail now.
Six top ULFA leaders are in jail and that includes chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, ‘deputy commander-in-chief’ Raju Baruah, ‘foreign secretary’ Sasha Choudhury, ‘finance secretary’ Chitraban Hazarika, ‘cultural secretary’ Pranati Deka, and political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.
ULFA vice-chairman Pradeep Gogoi and publicity chief Mithinga Daimary are out on bail and currently drumming up public opinion for peace talks.
The only top ULFA leader who continues to be at large is Paresh Baruah.
“Paresh Baruah is probably somewhere in the borders between Myanmar and China’s Yunnan Province,” Mr. Pillai said.
ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia is in protective custody in Bangladesh since his arrest in 1997 in that country. His jail term was over, but continues to remain in Bangladesh as he had moved a writ petition seeking political asylum there.
“There are legal problems in extraditing Anup Chetia as he had moved a petition seeking political asylum,” the Home Secretary said.
Chetia would have to withdraw the petition for political asylum for enabling him to come to Assam and join the peace process.
Mr. Pillai, however, warned of possible strikes by the ULFA and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in Assam. NDFB chief Ranjan Daimary was handed over by Bangladesh to Indian authorities last month and is now in the custody of Assam Police.
“When militant groups get weakened they try to strike out of desperation and hence such a possibility for violent attacks is not ruled out and so a general alert and stepped up vigil is always there,” the Home Secretary said.