AIRGUN-TOTING REBELS SURRENDER IN ASSAM 

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By FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT in Guwahati
  • Published 30.07.99
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Guwahati, July 30 :     From Kalashnikovs to airguns, the Ulfa certainly has a wide array of weapons! The number was negligible compared to the previous five rounds of surrenders, yet the surrender ceremony in Sibsagar district this morning ? where 22 Ulfa militants also laid down an airgun each before the Army ? ensured a display in tomorrow?s newspapers. The other surrendered weapons on view at the ceremony were three single-barrel guns, two revolvers and a grenade. After the ceremonial surrender of arms, the Ulfa cadres, who were led by self-styled ?sergeant-major? Khirod Gogoi, were ushered ?back to the mainstream again? by the commanding officer of the headquarter of the 2 Mountain Artillery Brigade. Senior officials of the Sibsagar district administration were conspicuous by their absence at the surrender ceremony, held at Joysagar. All the rebels who surrendered were from the Ulfa?s Rongpur unit. More than laying down arms, what signified the end of their ?war? against the Indian Union was the moment they joined Army personnel in shouting, ?Bharat mata ki jai?. Had it not been the revelation that the ?ISI-backed? Ulfa?s state-of-the-art arsenal also includes an adventurous teenager?s most prized toy ? an airgun ? a surrender ceremony where merely 22 rebels bade adieu to violence would have been a non-event. On July 24 last year, 51 militants surrendered in Thakurbari, 140 in Mariani on August 13 and another 36 at Dispur on December 31. At the two surrender ceremonies held this year, 159 rebels surrendered in Tamulpur and 102 in Nagaon on January 21 and May 25 respectively. As expected, Gogoi, who led the surrender party today, said he and the others had decided to return to the mainstream ?after realising that attaining freedom is impossible?. They claimed that the tide had turned against the Ulfa and people in the countryside were no longer ?good hosts to militants. Earlier, there was public support, but it is all lost now,? Gogoi added. The realisation about the loss of public support is not totally unfounded. People of Kukurachora village in Sibsagar district lynched a hardcore Ulfa militant, Amrit Bhuyan, on July 7. Bhuyan had come to the village to extort money and threatened to blow up the locality if his demand was not met. The Assam government termed the lynching a ?brave act? and urged the people to follow the ?example? of Kukurachora.