ULFA chairman gets freed on bail

Thursday, December 30, 2010

GUWAHATI - Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and one of India’s most wanted fugitives, was Thursday freed on bail, a year after he was captured by Bangladesh and handed over to Indian authorities in Assam.

A special TADA court Thursday gave the verdict after the government prosecutor gave no objection to Rajkhowa’s bail petition.

Arabinda Rajkhowa has been released on bail although the court has specifically asked him not to leave Assam and the country without permission, Bijon Mahajan, legal counsel of the ULFA chairman, told IANS.

Rajkhowa is expected to complete certain formalities in jail before stepping to freedom in a day or two.

Rajkhowa, 54, was captured from Dhaka by sleuths of the Rapid Action Battalion and then handed over to Indian authorities December last year. He was at the Guwahati Central Jail for the past one year.

We are happy to get the verdict and simply cannot express the joy, said the ULFA chairman’s elder brother Ajay Rajkonwar.

Rajkhowa’s wife Kaveri and their two children were captured along with him, but the Assam police had let off his family with no charges slapped against them.

Rajkhowa’s family has since been settled in his ancestral home in Lakwa in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district.

Rajkhowa, who studied till class 12, was tried on several criminal charges ranging from murder to kidnapping and extortion, with the maximum penalty being the death sentence, according to Assam police.

But lack of hard evidence and as part of a government strategy to get the jailed ULFA leaders released, Rajkhowa got a favourable verdict from the court.

Rajkhowa has become the sixth top jailed leader to have been released on bail since May with the government getting a clear signal from the imprisoned separatists that they would hold peace talks with New Delhi, once released.

Barring ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit were in jail. The imprisoned leaders included chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, vice chairman Pradip Gogoi, publicity chief Mithinga Daimary, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, and political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

But with demands for releasing the jailed ULFA leaders gathering momentum to pave the way for holding peace talks, the government embarked on a strategy not to oppose the bail applications of the separatists in court.

The process began and one by one, six top jailed ULFA leaders were released on bail - the government prosecutor not objecting to their bail applications in court.

The first to be released on bail were Pradeep Gogoi and Mithinga Daimary, followed by Raju Baruah and Pranati Deka, and earlier this month the veteran Bhimkanta Buragohain was released.

ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, however, is in Bangladesh since his arrest there in 1997.

We are hopeful that my brother would take the initiative in opening peace talks with the government, Ajay Rajkonwar said.

Now all eyes are set on the ULFA chairman to see if he is able to pull the curtains down to more than 30 years of insurgency in Assam.

Filed under: Terrorism

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