Road ahead challenging, want meaningful solution: Rajkhowa

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS
Monday, January 3, 2011

LAKWA - The euphoria and the sense of jubilation is beginning to die down as one of India’s most wanted terrorists until recently and chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Arabinda Rajkhowa, is beginning to realize that the road ahead is bumpy.

Rajkhowa was released on bail Saturday after a year long imprisonment following his capture in Bangladesh and subsequent handing over to Indian authorities in Assam.

Since his release from the Guwahati Central Jail, the ULFA chairman began addressing a dozen odd public meetings before reaching his ancestral home at Lakwa in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district late Sunday.

All along the road from Guwahati to Lakwa, some 390 km, banners and welcome gates were erected by local groups with Rajkhowa being felicitated in every meeting.

There is no need to be euphoric as the journey ahead is a challenging one, Rajkhowa told a motley gathering Monday who assembled at his home here.

The ULFA chairman last came home in 1983 and since then went into hiding, mostly in Bhutan and Bangladesh. He was captured in Dhaka in December 2009.

Rajkhowa, now 56, and five others formed the ULFA on April 7 1979 at the ramparts of the historic Rang Ghar, a 16th century amphitheatre of the Ahom Royalty.

Some 30 years ago we began a struggle from Rang Ghar and today 30 years down the line another long struggle has started, Rajkhowa said as he visited the site late Sunday en route to his home town.

We have not compromised or surrendered, but want an unconditional peace talks and a meaningful solution to the ‘Assam-India’ conflict, Rajkhowa said.

It is true last 30 years we have not been able to liberate an inch of land and same way the Indian government too failed to annihilate the ULFA with all its military might.

The occasional “ULFA Zindabad” (Long Live ULFA) chanted by supporters accompanying Rajkhowa from Guwahati to Lakwa is also beginning to die down with questions raised as to whether the ULFA chairman should get a hero’s welcome.

Is it justified to treat a terrorist leader who was directly or indirectly responsible for many killings like this, an elderly Dinabandhu Das asked.

Das has seen from close at least 14 schoolchildren killed during a bomb blast at an Independence Day parade in Dhemaji town 2003.

Rajkhowa and his colleagues would have to answer the families who lost their dear ones in that deadly blast, Das said with a sense of deep remorse.

The ULFA later went to claim responsibility for the Dhemaji blast and admitted it was a mistake.

The time has come for the people of Assam to fully back the peace process and in every step we want the support and cooperation of the masses, Rajkhowa told IANS in an informal conversation Monday sipping red tea.

Already Rajkhowa is feeling the heat - for he has to answer several delicate and critically sensitive questions as he steps out from home to meet the people.

Obviously not all people who came out to attend his meetings are ULFA supporters, said Anurgag Gogoi, a young college student.

The writing is very clear - the road ahead for the ULFA leadership in terms of opening peace talks would surely not be a smooth one as the elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah is still giving conflicting signals as far as joining the negotiations.

We picked up guns for a cause and now there is a chance for a settlement and therefore everyone should help us to achieve something meaningful without compromising on our goal, Rajkhowa said.

Filed under: Terrorism

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