Guwahati, Nov. 1: The trickle of “disillusioned” militants coming out of hiding to lay down arms at periodic intervals has turned into a spate, but Tarun Gogoi sees in this a reason to be anxiously vigilant rather than happily complacent.
“Watch out for retaliatory strikes by Ulfa and its jihadi collaborators,” the chief minister said after 64 Ulfa militants and two from the Adivasi National Liberation Army gave up weapons in the largest mass surrender in recent years.
The line-up of militants at the surrender ceremony, organised at the 4th Assam Police Battalion headquarters in Kahilipara, included four “sergeants-major” and five “sergeants” from Ulfa’s 28, 109 and 709 battalions. The prize catch was Ujjal Gohain, the finance secretary of the 28 Battalion.
The surrender ceremony was the third in less than a month. As many as 42 Ulfa militants turned themselves over at the army base in Tamulpur under Baksa district on October 23. Another 13 militants surrendered at Laipuli in Tinsukia district last week.
The militants who turned up at the police battalion headquarters deposited eight AK-56 rifles, five pistols, 10 revolvers, 11 grenades, eight AK-56 magazines, assorted ammunition, detonators, 5kg of RDX, RPG shells, gelatin sticks and switches of programmable timer devices that are fitted to bombs.
Gogoi said the developments of the last fortnight were as much an indication of law and order improving as the eagerness of the Ulfa rank and file to abjure violence. He cited statistics — 665 Ulfa militants have surrendered since the collapse of the peace process in September last year — as proof of the government’s strategy against the militant group succeeding.
Only 44 militants surrendered between August 2005 and September 2006, when the peace process was on, the chief minister said. “But we cannot afford to be complacent. There is a report that it (Ulfa) is trying to strike. Jihadi groups have also joined hands with Ulfa. There is a clear nexus between the two,” he added.
Militants who surrender will be trained in various skills and be paid a stipend of Rs 2,000 per month for three years, apart from Rs 1.5 lakh as insurance.
“Sergeant-major” Bhaskar Bora, alias Rantu Gogoi, from Tinsukia district said Ulfa had discarded “democratic” values. “It has turned into an autocratic outfit with the leadership having no time to listen to the lower-ranked cadre,” he said in English during the ceremony.
The inspector-general of police in charge of the Special Branch, Khagen Sarma, said the last general council meeting of the outfit was held in 1998.
Baby Chetri, alias Manisha Sarma, said she gained nothing by joining Ulfa in 1999. “My father died when I was in jail. There is no news of my mother and brother. My neighbours refuse to provide me shelter,” the girl from Darjeeling said. Daughter of a railway employee posted in Maligaon, Baby was arrested in Bhutan. She came out of jail only a few days ago, only to discover that her mother and brother had deserted her.
Director-general of police R.N. Mathur, the chief of the 4 Corps, Lt Gen. B.S. Jaswal, and principal secretary (home and political) S.C. Das were in the official contingent at the surrender ceremony.
At least 35 more militants sent feelers to the security establishment yesterday about their willingness to surrender. “It was too late to accommodate them in today’s function. More surrenders will follow,” a senior police officer said.