Guwahati, March 30: The fasting wives of six Ulfa militants who went missing in Bhutan three years ago were arrested and herded into a hospital during a dramatic midnight operation by police.
Kamrup metro deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi told The Telegraph that the protesters were arrested and admitted to hospital around 1 am on the basis of a medical report that warned of rapid deterioration of their health. “Under the law, no citizen of India can be allowed to end his/her life. The administration was forced to arrest the protesters and take them to the hospital for their safety.”
Panbazar police registered a case against the group under Section 309 of the IPC.
The women are demanding information about their husbands, who went missing from Bhutan during the military operation in December 2003 against militants holed up in that country, and resumption of Delhi’s peace process with Ulfa.
Parallels are being drawn between their campaign and Irom Sharmila’s crusade in Manipur against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Sharmila has been in and out of custody for being on hungerstrike for six years.
Like her, the wives of Ulfa militants appeared determined to continue their fast-unto-death despite police intervention. The women turned down requests by doctors and nurses to break their fast and undergo treatment.
Accusing the police and the civil administration of harassment, Malini Ingtipi alias Hema Hansipi, wife of missing Ulfa leader Ashanta Bakphukan, said last night’s episode was a reflection of the government’s “anti-democratic stance” and unwillingness to end militancy peacefully.
“We would prefer to die rather than take medicines. Does the government want to see us survive without our husbands' Can chief minister Tarun Gogoi dare to see the plight of missing Ulfa wives and their children' The hospital has become a jail for us,” Malini said.
Anima Devi, wife of missing Ulfa member Bening Rava, said she and the other women would go to any extent to get justice. “If the government respects the dignity of Indian women, it should come out with information about the whereabouts of our husbands.”
Apart from Malini and Anima, the police arrested Gyanmona Moran alias Shyamoli Gogoi, Menoka Chetia alias Minakshi Borborua, Juri Neog and Kavita Chakrabarty.
Earlier this week, the women threatened to push their children into the hungerstrike routine if the government remained unmoved.
Dr G.K. Das, the joint director of health services, said the condition of all six women would worsen if they did not agree to medication immediately. “It is now upto them to co-operate with the doctors and nurses. We are trying to convince them to take medicines. Their health is being monitored.”
Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa issued a statement condemning the arrest of the six women. He said the police operation exposed the “Fascist character” of the government.
In a related development, Gauhati High Court asked Delhi to file an affidavit on or before April 12 pertaining to the list of individuals handed over by the Royal Bhutan Army to India during and after Operation All Clear.
Sources said the directive came after Delhi forwarded the relevant records to assistant solicitor general H. Rahman, who, in turn, passed the file to the court in accordance with a March 13 order.
Acting Chief Justice D. Biswas and Justice B.P. Katakey conducted the hearing. Advocates Bijon Mahajan and Raju Pradhan represented the families of missing Ulfa militants.