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Army toes police line on KLO-Ulfa links

Tamulpur, Oct. 31: After a prolonged silence, the army today corroborated claims by police and intelligence agencies about the association of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) with two of Assam’s dreaded militant outfits, the Ulfa and the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

The army got extensive information about the KLO’s “working relationship” with the Ulfa and the NDFB from 12 militants who laid down arms at a surrender ceremony at Tamulpur in Nalbari district, bordering Bhutan.

The militants, seven of them belonging to the NDFB and the rest from the Ulfa, surrendered to Brig. Jatinder Singh, commander of the army’s Tamulpur brigade.

Randeep Kumar Patgiri, one of the NDFB deserters, said the Ulfa and KLO had long been collaborating with the outfit he used to be part of. “NDFB camps are frequented by Ulfa and KLO activists. The arrangement includes sharing of information and collaboration in various activities,” the surrendered rebel, who used to be a “corporal” in the NDFB hierarchy, said.

Patgiri had gone to Bhutan in 1997 for training and was later given charge of the outfit’s Risori transit camp.

The former militant said the Ulfa and KLO had “very good relations” and were constantly in touch with NDFB leaders based in the Himalayan kingdom. “There are about 20 NDFB camps in Bhutan,” he added.

The police and intelligence agencies have attributed several incidents of violence to the Ulfa-KLO combine.

On the NDFB’s continued rejection of peace overtures by the government, Patgiri said the outfit’s leadership had yet to work out a strategy for negotiations.

“Unlike the Bodo Liberation Tigers, the NDFB has made no effort to break the ice. We heard the word ‘dialogue’ on several occasions, but there was no follow-up action.”

Patgiri and the 11 other militants surrendered a US-made G-3 rifle, an AK-47, a 7.62 mm rifle, a 9 mm pistol, a 9 mm stengun, hand grenades and assorted ammunition.

Apart from senior army officials, the surrender ceremony was attended by the deputy commissioner of Nalbari, village heads, teachers and students. Family members of the militants were present, too.

Himan Deuri, who had joined the outlawed Ulfa in 2000, took the symbolic oath on behalf of the group that surrendered and urged all militants to bid farewell to arms. “The aspirations of the organisations we had joined will never be fulfilled. I urge youths not to join any outfit,” he said.

Deuri, who was a member of the Ulfa’s crack Enigma unit, said between 2,500 and 3,000 members of the outfit were holed up in camps at remote locations. He said the Ulfa’s recruitment centre was at his native place, Kumarikata in Nalbari district.

The surrendered militant revealed that he had met Ulfa “chairman” Arabinda Rajkhowa in April, but never seen “commander-in-chief” Paresh Barua. “There is hardly any interaction between him and the cadre,” he said.

Brig. Singh said a centre had been set up to train the former militants for various vocations. These include tailoring, vehicle repair, pisciculture, poultry farming and the use of computers.

“Militants have begun deserting their camps in Bhutan because the pressure of living in such conditions and keeping the security forces at bay is too much to bear,” Brig. Singh said.

Deputy commissioner Kalyan B. Chakraborty said the administration would help the surrendered militants get their lives back on track. Ganesh Deka, headman of Tamulpur village, urged the youth to be involved in constructive work “instead of blowing up bridges and killing people”.

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