ULFA’s strike unit announces ceasefire (Lead)

June 24th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 24 (IANS) The most potent strike unit of the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Tuesday announced a unilateral ceasefire, prompting Assam authorities to say more rebel units might want to put violence on hold. “The ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies of the ULFA’s 28th battalion have decided for a unilateral ceasefire with effect from Tuesday to facilitate peace talks with the government,” Jiten Dutta, a senior ULFA commander, told a local TV channel by telephone.

On the surface, this looks like a split in the ULFA, fighting for a ’sovereign, socialist Assam’ since its inception in 1979, but leaders who have called for the truce say that is not so.

“The ULFA is not split and we shall disclose everything as to why we decided to declare the unilateral ceasefire,” Dutta said.

The 28th battalion of the ULFA, also called the ‘Kashmir camp’, has its headquarters in Myanmar and was closely aligned with the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K).

The truce announcement means that only the ‘B’ or the Bravo company of the ULFA’s 28th battalion is outside the purview of the truce.

“Since most of the top leaders and cadres of the ‘B’ company are at bases abroad, they are not in a position to declare the truce,” the ULFA leader said.

It is not clear whether the ceasefire decision has the approval of the ULFA central leadership.

Last week, in the wake of media speculations about the impending truce between the government and the 28th battalion, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said there was no such possibility.

“There has been an attempt to spread such news to create confusion among the rank and file of our group,” Rajkhowa said in a statement.

Indications about such a move by the 28th battalion surfaced when the Assam government Saturday facilitated the release on bail of detained commander of the ULFA’s 28th battalion, Mrinal Hazarika. The authorities apparently did not oppose Hazarika’s bail plea.

Within a day of his release, Hazarika telephoned journalists to say he was back with his colleagues at the 28th battalion’s ‘C’ company.

The ‘A’ company of the ULFA unit has been active in the eastern Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, besides in adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, while the ‘C’ company was active in Sivasagar and Golaghat districts.

“This is the beginning. More ULFA units are likely to put violence on hold for possible peace negotiations,” a police official said, requesting anonymity.

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