The surrender of Drishti Rajkhowa, ‘deputy commander-in-chief’ of the banned United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), has dealt a blow to insurgency in the region and is a major step towards peace in Assam and the Northeast, senior Assam police and Indian Army officers said on Thursday.
“His [Rajkhowa’s] surrender is a major blow to the underground organisation and heralds a new dawn, ushering in peace in the region,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Rajkhowa, 50, surrendered to Army’s intelligence agencies on Wednesday, the ministry said.
Addressing a Unified Command press conference in Rangia on Thursday, Hiren Nath, IGP, Special Branch, Assam Police, said, “The surrender is a very important step against insurgency in Assam and the Northeast towards bringing longstanding peace.”
Army officers said efforts were made by various agencies to nab Rajkhowa over the last several years. Rajkhowa has been an active member of ULFA and led the outfit in the western Assam region for over 30 years now — he is said to lead its ‘709 Batallion’. Said to be a close confidant of ULFA chief Paresh Baruah, Rajkhowa is known to have been operating in Bangladesh and along the border with Bangladesh in Meghalaya, especially in an area in South Garo Hills district.
Besides Rajkhowa, his accomplices Vedanta, Yasin Asom, Ropjyoti Asom, and Mithun Asom also surrendered. A large cache of arms and ammunition were sezied from them.
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.”
A senior officer of Meghalaya Police told The Indian Express that for months now the police have been mounting pressure to nab Rajkhowa. Operations in March and October were launched to catch him but Rajkhowa escaped on both occasions, the officer said.
“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.
A security source said that an operation was carried out against Rajkhowa and his accomplices in Bangladesh, near the international border, on November 7. “The operations in Meghalaya and Bangladesh made Rajkhowa want to surrender because he was scared for his life,” the source said.
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