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Top Leader of Rebel Group in India's Northeast in Custody

  • Anjana Pasricha

Top Leader of Rebel Group in India's Northeast in Custody

Top Leader of Rebel Group in India's Northeast in Custody

Detention of Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom, could deal a blow to a long-running insurgency in the region.

In India, the leader of a powerful rebel movement in the remote northeastern state of Assam has been detained. His detention could deal a blow to a long-running insurgency in the region.

Officials confirmed Friday that the chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom, Arabinda Rajkhowa, is in custody.

The circumstances which led to his detention are not clear. Police in Assam say he surrendered near the border with Bangladesh along with his wife and two children. But domestic reports say that Rajkhowa was handed over quietly to Indian border guards by Bangladesh, where he was arrested days ago.

The rebel group, also known as ULFA, has led a bloody campaign for an independent homeland in the remote northeastern state of Assam for nearly three decades. Many of the rebels easily slip into Bangladesh.

The detained rebel has made peace overtures to New Delhi in recent weeks, sparking speculation that the powerful rebel group could be ready to commence a peace dialogue. However the group's powerful military commander, Paresh Barua, is opposed to negotiations with the government.

Assam's chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, has said his government is willing to start a peace process with the rebels. "People of Assam want some sort of a settlement should be there," he said. "Of course as you know this is two-way traffic, we are keeping our doors open."

Indian authorities have said they will begin talks if the group gives up violence and its claims for an independent homeland.

Efforts to start negotiations with the rebel group were made in 1992 and in 2006, but both initiatives collapsed.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the separatist insurgency waged by ULFA, which is one of most powerful rebel groups operating in the remote northeast. But the group has been weakened after the arrest of several top commanders in the last year.

The insurgency was fueled by complaints that the federal government has not done enough for the development of the region, which is rich in resources, but continues to be among the lesser developed regions in the country.

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