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Ulfa leader in net for death

- 2 persons in suicide pact still untraced

Tezpur, Sept. 4: Police today arrested Ulfa leader Ranju Saharia from his house at Sipajhar in Darrang district in connection with the suicide by three members of a family at Tezpur in Sonitpur district on Tuesday night.

Saharia was produced in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Darrang, which remanded him in judicial custody.

A family of four — Bhabani Sarma, his wife Makan Devi, their son Manjul Sarma and his wife Astami Devi — from Sipajhar had jumped into the Brahmaputra at Tezpur in an apparent suicide pact to escape alleged threats by Saharia for the family’s failure to repay debts.

While Makan Devi was rescued, personnel of the State Disaster Response Force later recovered the body of her husband. The two others are yet to be traced. Astami was eight months pregnant.

A police officer in Mangaldoi in Darrang district said that the self-styled lieutenant colonel Saharia was arrested from Dakshin Suburi Asom Naba Nirman Kendra in his house near a designated camp of Ulfa. The outfit has taken up income-generating activities such as agri-farming for their members through the kendras. The Ulfa group, led by Arabinda Rajkhowa, is in talks with the Centre.

Saharia had allegedly threatened to kill the family if they failed to repay the debt which they had taken from different people.

Makan Devi had yesterday said that her husband and son had taken loans from different persons, amounting to about Rs 60 lakh, in connection with their business, but after adding interest, the dues had climbed to Rs 2.8 crore as of April. The family has a shop selling television sets in Mangaldoi town.

The police official said Makan Devi on Wednesday night lodged an FIR against Saharia alleging that they were forced to take the extreme step as they could not live with the threat of being killed by the Ulfa leader. The Ulfa, however, denied the allegation and said that the family had appealed to it recently seeking intervention in the issue. The family hails from Piparadokan village in Sipajhar in Darrang district, about 120km from Tezpur where they went to commit suicide. Makan Devi had also said yesterday that she had asked her son and daughter-in-law not to join them as she wanted the family line to continue. She said the family had gone to Tezpur to drop Astami at her parental home.

Police said investigation had so far revealed that the family had met Saharia in a designated camp at Sipajhar, where Ulfa cadres have been living since they began talks with the government.

Rina Devi, the mother of Astami Devi, who hails from Tezpur Bahbari, also lodged another FIR at Mangaldoi police station against Makan Devi, alleging murder of her daughter.

Police said investigation was on. Saharia today again denied the allegation levelled by the family.

Tension still prevails at Piparadokan village under Mangaldoi police station with residents demanding justice. “We demand quick action and punishment for those who were responsible for the incident,” said Jintu Deka, a resident of the village.