Freed after six years, ULFA leader returns to empty home

Barama (Assam), Feb 25 (IANS) After six years in jail, he was a free man Thursday. But Mithinga Daimary – the 43-year-old publicity chief of terror outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) – could not stop his tears as he went back to an empty home, his entire family brutally murdered.

Daimary was released on bail and came out of the Guwahati Central Jail where he was lodged since his arrest by Assam police in December 2003 after Bhutanese forces captured him during ‘Operation All Clear’ launched to evict ULFA bases from the Himalayan kingdom.

But back home in Barama village of Nalbari district, about 80 km west of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, the hardened separatist leader found literally no one from his immediate family to greet him.

His entire family – mother, elder brother, sister, and pregnant sister-in-law – were brutally gunned down by unidentified gunmen in 2000.

‘I have come with an empty hand to an equally empty house,’ Daimary told IANS as tears welled up in his eyes. He had never visited his home after leaving his studies midway and joining the ULFA in 1986.

‘But I must admit the gesture on the part of the Assam government not to have objected to my bail petition was a positive step,’ Daimary said.

On Thursday, the mood was one of jubilation at his village with hundreds of people lining up the streets to welcome Daimary.

The special TADA Court in Guwahati Tuesday granted bail to Daimary and ULFA vice chairman Pradip Gogoi, a move seen as an attempt by the government to go soft on jailed rebel leaders and bring them round to peace talks.

The government prosecutor did not oppose bail petitions moved by the legal counsel of both the ULFA leaders.

Gogoi is still in jail as he is yet to complete some legal formalities to enable him come out of the prison. Gogoi has been in the Guwahati jail after his arrest from Kolkata in 1998.

So what would be Daimary’s role in pushing the deadlocked peace process forward?

‘There cannot be any talks without the entire top brass of the ULFA – currently in jail – being released. Let the government release our leaders and we would respect the sentiments and yearning for peace by the people of Assam,’ Daimary said.

Already lodged at the Guwahati central jail are six other top ULFA leaders – chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika, 70-year-old political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain, and cultural secretary Pranati Deka.

Meanwhile, Gogoi Thursday gave a new twist by saying that peace talks cannot be held without the presence of detained ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, now at the Rajshahi prison in Dhaka.

‘There cannot be any decision without Chetia and also without all our jailed leaders here being released. Anup Chetia would have to be here,’ Gogoi told journalists while being brought to a hospital for a health checkup.

Chetia is in the custody of Bangladesh since his arrest in that country in 1997.

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