A top militant of the banned United Liberation Front of Assam – Independent (ULFA-I), Drishti Rajkhowa, surrendered to Indian Army Intelligence agencies on Wednesday evening, the Defence Ministry said.
Rajkhowa (50), the deputy commander-in-chief of the outfit, is said to be a close confidant of the outfit’s chief Paresh Baruah. He is known to have been operating and travelling in Bangladesh and along the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya, especially in an area under the Rongra police station in South Garo Hills district.
“Drishti Rajkhowa has long been in the wanted list of the ULFA insurgents responsible for their activities in lower Assam,” the Defence Ministry statement said.
Along with him, four of his accomplices — Vedanta, Yasin Asom, Ropjyoti Asom and Mithun Asom — too surrendered, with a huge cache of arms, including one AK 81, two 9 mm pistols, and several rounds of ammunition.
The Defence statement said that it was a “swift and well-planned operation executed by the Indian Army Intelligence Agencies at Meghalaya-Assam- Bangladesh Border”. “The operation was based on confirmed inputs, which was a result of relentless pursuit over the last nine months,” the statement said.
“His surrender is a major blow to the underground organisation and heralds a new dawn ushering in peace in the region,” the press statement said. “By this operation Indian Army again reaffirmed, that at all times, it remains committed in maintaining peace and normalcy in the region,” it added.
A senior officer of the Meghalaya Police told The Indian Express that for months now the police has been mounting pressure on Rajkhowa — and there were two operations targeting him, one in March and on October 20. Rajkhowa escaped from both and in the latter one of his accomplices was injured.
“He has been on the run due to our constant operations. So, he wanted to surrender and contacted his family in Assam. The family contacted the Army,” the police officer said. The Indian Army does not operate in the district, the officer observed.
Police in East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya has said that in his interrogation, Rajkhowa has said that they had escaped from a police encounter in South Garo Hills and were trying to cross over to Bangladesh.
“Thereafter, due to heavy operation at Bangladesh, fled from there and contacted Army officials and surrendered at Dilsengre village South Garo Hills,” the police statement on Wednesday night said.