Tamulpur (Assam) : A group of 33 separatist rebels in Assam Tuesday surrendered along with a huge cache of weapons and explosives saying they were “frustrated” with the alleged high-handedness of their leaders.
In the biggest surrender this year, 31 rebels belonging to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), including two women cadres, and two militants from the group’s tribal ally, the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), gave up before top army, police and civil officials at an army base here.
“We welcome them (the surrendered rebels) to the mainstream of national life,” Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, general officer commanding of the army’s IV Corps who heads the anti-insurgency operations at the Unified Headquarters in Assam, said at the function.
Jaswal added: “We would like the ULFA to come forward for unconditional talks after laying down their weapons.”
The rebels deposited 19 Kalashnikov assault rifles, several pistols and revolvers and 6.5 kg of explosives.
Nagen Rabha, one of the ULFA militants who surrendered, said: “We are totally demoralised and frustrated at the high-handed attitude of our top leaders.”
Most of the ULFA rebels who have surrendered belong to its ‘709 battalion’, based in the southern Karbi Anglong hills.
The ULFA and its Karbi ally, the KLNLF, were believed to have been responsible for the massacre of dozens of Hindi-speaking migrant settlers in Karbi Anglong district in recent weeks.
Assam police chief R.N. Mathur and other senior police and civil administration officials were also present at the surrender ceremony.
Army officials said the surrendered rebels would be put up at an Army Rehabilitation Centre and given vocational skills to enable them to earn a living in the coming days. They are also being given a monthly stipend.
During the past 12 months, beginning September 2006, the army’s 2nd Mountain Division, based in eastern Assam, has neutralised scores of ULFA militants.
“We have neutralised 178 ULFA militants since Sep 24, 2006 including one battalion commander (Rajiv Kalita of the ’27th battalion’), five company commanders, ten action group commanders and seven experts in improvised explosive devices (IED),” a senior army official said.
Besides, several ULFA militants have been either killed or captured elsewhere in Assam.