Dec. 31: Armed with a pledge to start life afresh in the New Year, 16 militants today bade farewell to arms at Jorhat, at the biggest surrender ceremony in Upper Assam since the beginning Operation All Clear of the Royal Bhutan Army in the Himalayan kingdom.
One of the militants who surrendered today, Bhaskar, an Ulfa activist, said he had lost hope on the success of the revolution.
Arrested a couple of months back and later released on bail, Bhaskar was looking for the right opportunity to return to the jungles of Bhutan and be among his comrades to “carry on with the revolution”.
But that was yesterday. Today Bhaskar, along with the 15 other militants surrendered before the army at the 41 Sub Area here.
“After the Bhutan crackdown there is no hope for the Ulfa. For me it is the end of the revolution,” Bhaskar told reporters at the surrender ceremony, dubbed by the army as the biggest in Upper Assam in recent times.
The 16 militants, 15 of them Ulfa and one from the Multa, deposited a .38 revolver, a 9 mm US-made revolver, 7.6 mm UK-made pistol, four hand grenades and 24 rounds of ammunition.
The group of militants was from Jorhat, Golaghat and Dibrugarh districts of Upper Assam.
“From the New Year, I want to start my life afresh. I will work on constructive lines, which will help society,” said Montu, another militant from Teok.
Welcoming the former militants to the mainstream, the commander of the 41 Sub Area, Brig. S.. Sethia, said the military offensive in Bhutan has made the militants do a re-think that the path of violence was not leading them anywhere. “It is better late than never,” Brig. Setia said. The army official hoped that more misguided youths would come forward and the avail of the opportunity to come back home.
Jorhat deputy commissioner, Ravi Kota and superintendent of police, P.C. Saloi, were also present on the occasion.
With the morale of the Ulfa at its lowest ebb, specially after the Bhutan crackdown, intelligence agencies anticipate more militants coming overground in the next few days.
An intelligence official said several groups of militants have fled Bhutan through the Arunachal border and sneaked into Assam. They are reportedly taking shelter in Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts of Upper Assam.
Other groups of militants, according to latest intelligence inputs, have sneaked into Lower Assam through Meghalaya and are “stranded” in the rough terrain of the North Cachar Hills bordering Meghalaya. From there these groups are planning to cross over to Myanmar through Nagaland.
“Since these groups of militants left their camps in a hurry to save their lives, they are believed to have very limited rations. Hence the chances of their giving up are more,” he said.
In a related development, the North East Peoples Forum has called for operations by the army inside Bangladesh territory to dismantle the bases and hideouts of the anti-Indian outfits.
The forum’s general secretary and former Rajya Sabha MP B.B. Dutta said in Agartala that if the US could go for armed action in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was nothing to prevent India from launching an offensive within Bangladesh.