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Ulfa cloud on Bihu festivities

Guwahati, April 7: Ulfa observed its raising day today, urging the people to ensure a “sombre and austere” Bihu as an expression of solidarity with the fasting wives of missing Ulfa cadre.

The women are staging a hungerstrike demanding information about their husbands who went missing since Bhutan’s flushout operations against militant groups in 2003. Their other demands include resumption of peace talks and release of the jailed Ulfa leaders.

Rongali Bihu holds a special place in the hearts of the people. The vibrant festival marks the beginning of the New Year, when people dance to the traditional Bihu rhythm with fanfare.

In a press statement released today, Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa appealed to the masses to shun all kinds of merry-making. He said the forthcoming Bihu should be observed to reaffirm the pledge to fulfil people’s aspirations for which the Ulfa wives and others were fasting.

The appeal to make Bihu a low-key affair has been viewed in political circles as part of the Ulfa’s strategy to whip up public sympathy in its favour. The women, who have been on a fast since March 21, were joined by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam (PCPIA) yesterday. A group of Ulfa cadre too went on a token fast yesterday at Nagaon Central Jail.

On the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the state, Rajkhowa, in his Raising Day speech, once again demanded a plebiscite under UN supervision on the issue of Assam’s sovereignty if the government failed to hold talks. He appealed to all ethnic communities to launch a united movement — both “armed and non-armed” — to establish “sovereignty” for the people of Assam.

Security has been put on maximum alert for Singh’s visit tomorrow. The Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone of the second bridge over the Brahmaputra and another for the Assam gas cracker project at Lepetkata in Dibrugarh the day after.

In several districts where Ulfa has strong presence, prohibitory orders under 144 CrPC have been clamped.

A hardcore Ulfa militant, Pradip Bora, a B company member of the outfit’s 28 battalion, surrendered before Tinsukia deputy commissioner Absar Hazarika today.

An improvised explosive device weighing 10 kg was recovered from under a culvert by Sonari police at Bengenabari Dhudar Ali in Sivasagar around 7.30 am today.

The bomb disposal squad later defused it.

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