The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa contests capture claims

Guwahati, Dec. 21: Cornered by Bhutanese troops but apparently more angry with the Indian army, a frustrated Ulfa today said the armed forces on this side of the Indo-Bhutan border had launched a propaganda war to “demoralise” its ranks.

Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua said in an interview to an Internet news portal that the army had wrongly announced the capture of a couple of its top leaders.

“Major Bening Rabha and Captain Biju Deka are very much present in Bhutan and leading the fightback. The news of their surrender and arrest has been spread by the Indian army to break the morale of our fighters.”

The army said three days after the offensive in Bhutan began that Rabha, in charge of the Ulfa’s camps there, had been arrested and Deka had surrendered. Another top leader of the militant group, Drishti Rajkhowa, was reportedly killed by Bhutanese troops.

However, Barua claimed Rajkhowa was alive and spiritedly fighting the Royal Bhutan Army. He said Rajkhowa, Rabha and Deka were “experienced guerrilla fighters and it will be next to impossible for the RBA to either kill or apprehend them”.

The interview on the news portal coincided with Ulfa publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary and five more captured militants being remanded in police custody for five days.

The army handed over the militants, including two from the National Democratic Front of Boroland, to the police last night in accordance with a directive from Gauhati High Court. Daimary and the rest were produced before the additional chief judicial magistrate this evening.

The police sought custody of Daimary for 14 days to interrogate him about the five cases pending against him, but the court reduced the period to five days on the ground that four of the five case diaries had not been produced before it.

The Ulfa leader’s counsel said the court asked the police to adhere to the Supreme Court guidelines on interrogation in custody and conduct a medical examination of the detainee every 48 hours.

In Bhutan, ministry of foreign affairs director Yeshe Dorjee said the royal government was committed to ensuring the safety of children and women stranded in the battle zone.

“We would like to reassure all those who are worried about the well being of the women and children that our country is looking after them and would continue to do so until a consensus is reached regarding their future,” he said from the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar.

An army official here said two refugee camps and one for detainees had been set up at Tamulpur in Nalbari district, bordering Bhutan. “The refugee camps are for Bhutanese who have had to flee their homes to escape being caught in the crossfire. However, nobody has come to the camp so far,” he said.

The official did not rule out the possibility of Bhutan seeking assistance from Indian troops for the “final assault”.

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