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Army produces ULFA veteran Burhagohain

December 27, 2003 03:19 IST

United Liberation Front of Asom ideologue Bhimkanta Burhagohain alias mama, believed to have been killed last week during a military offensive by Bhutan's army, was on Friday handed over to the Indian Army in Tezpur.

Burhagohain, who was presented before mediapersons, issued a message to his cadres to lay down arms and come to the negotiating table.

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Three others -- all self-styled 'majors' -- who had also been handed over to the Indian Army by their Bhutanese counterparts on Thursday evening were, however, whisked away to the 4 Corps headquarters.

In a written speech read out by him in English, Burhagohain (78) said, "I have to say to all our cadres and members of ULFA to lay down arms. I think from my side the path, which we led, was wrong.

"Therefore, I call all ULFA members and even the top leaders to think about it deeply. We need to think that peace does not come through the barrel of a gun but through negotiations," he said.

A tired looking Burhagohain dressed in dark trousers and a woolen coat also spoke in Assamese and said that there must 'be a ceasefire from both the sides'.

"ULFA must come to an understanding with the government of India to come to the negotiating table and resolve the matter completely," he added.

After he read out the statement, Burhagohain was immediately whisked away and was not allowed to interact with mediapersons.

Burhagohain was one of the seven leaders who formed the militant outfit on April 7, 1979, at Ranghar in upper Assam's Sibsagar district vowing to 'liberate Assam and fight for its sovereignty'. He had spent two years in Burma before shifting to Bhutan in 1998.

Official reports had earlier claimed that he had surrendered on the second day of 'Operation All Clear', launched by the Royal Bhutan Army on December 15, and later died of his injuries.

Unified Command's GOC-in-C Lt Gen Mohinder Singh said it (his death) was 'misreported' but refused to elaborate.

The others handed over to the Indian Army on Thursday evening included 66-year-old Robin Handique, the newly appointed political advisor of the ULFA to assist Burhagohain, Bolin Das and Dr Amarjit Gogoi, who was responsible for the proscribed outfit's medical wing.

Defence sources said Burhagohain, Robin Handique, Robin Neog and Ashanta Dasphukan represented ULFA at a meeting with the government of Bhutan on November 28, 2003. During the meeting, they had requested for time till April 2004 to shift their camps out of Bhutan, which was not agreed to.

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