Rajkhowa free-Assam salvo marks Ulfa martyrs' day

GUWAHATI/DIBRUGARH: The pro- and anti-talks of Ulfa marked the outfit's 'martyrs' day" in two different but notable ways on Wednesday.

On this day in 1991, five Ulfa cadres had been killed by security personnel in Darrang district. The pro-peace group observed the day at its Kakopathar designated camp in Tinsukia district in the presence of top leaders like Sasha Choudhury, Chitrabon Hazarika and Prabal Neog.

Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who is set to begin peace dialogue with the Centre, created a flutter by describing the demand for a sovereign Assam as a wish of the people that " will protect Assam's existence". On the other hand, followers of Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, who is against holding talks with the government without the sovereignty issue on the agenda, marked the day with a greande blast and a failed bomb attack.

While speaking at a programme, Rajkhowa said, "A majority of the people of the state have formed an opinion that Assam's existence can be protected only within a sovereign country of Assam." He added, "The people of Assam believe that one or two constitutional amendmends will not guarantee protection of Assam's existence."

This was a rejection of the suggestion made by Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan (SJA) in its draft charter of demands that sovereignty is not feasible and that the state be given more autonomy through a constitutional amendmend. The SJA is a citizens' group that earlier brokered peace between the government and Ulfa.

On Tuesday that Rajkhowa had received an invitation from the Centre for direct talks. Since his arrest in and subsequent extradtition from Bangladesh in 2009, he had been holding parleys with the Centre's interlocutor, PC Haldar. Earlier, he and other pro-peace leaders refrained from commenting on the sovereignty issue fearing violation of their own agreement to have unconditional talks with the Centre. At Dhubri, police found a powerful bomb at the entrance of a bus stand from where vehicles for Cooch Behar in West Bengal are parked. The bomb, which was diffused by the army, was connected to a programmable time device (PTD) and weighed about 2.5 kg. "A bus passengeer spotted the bomb wrapped in a blue plastic packet around 6 am and averted a major distaster," superintendent of police (Dhubri) P C Saloi said. At Chabua, Paresh's native place, anti-talks militants hurled a grenade damaging a few shops. Police said no one was injured in the attack that took place at about 3.15 am. The grenade hit the railings of DDR College situated near National Highway 37. Police suspected that Ulfa hardliners might have used "linkmen or hired hands" to carry out the attack.

AUlfa cadre, Lachit Khanikar and his accomplice were caught by 8 Garhwal Rifles and police from Kakopathar on Wednesday morning. A pistol and two Chinese grenades were found on them.