Two ULFA companies declare ceasefire, 58 rebels surrender

In an interesting development, the 'A' and 'C' companies of the 28th Battalion of the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) on Tuesday declared a unilateral ceasefire and asked the ULFA top brass to do the same and hold talks with the Government to find an amicable solution to their problems.

The 'ceasefire' was announced through a press release signed by 15 members of the two companies of the outfit's 28th Battalion. The letter was faxed to media houses. The signatories included 'Captain' Mrinal Hazarika, a former 'Commander' of the 28th Battalion who was released on bail on Saturday. Hazarika was earlier arrested in 2006 from a hotel in Siliguri in West Bengal.

The press release, however, did not disclose the reasons behind the 'ceasefire', but said they would give 'more details' on Wednesday. The ULFA's 28th Battalion, which has lost over 50 cadres in the past six months to security forces, is responsible for the killing of a large number of Hindi-speaking settlers in the Upper Assam region in recent years.

The group also wrote to the IGP (Special Branch) of the Assam Police Khagen Sharma saying the Government was expected to formally give its reactions to this "welcome gesture". "We are expecting more groups to come up with such declarations," the IGP said, indicating that this could be the beginning of a division in the ULFA on pro-talks and anti-talks lines.

Following Hazarika's released on bail on Saturday, the police had arrested Hiranya Saikia, a member of the ULFA-nominated People's Consultative Group (PCG) in Guwahati, on Sunday. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's recent announcement on new conditions for militants willing to surrender is also believed to have prompted the 'ceasefire.'

Meanwhile, as many as 58 members of different militant groups, the majority of them belonging to the ULFA surrendered before the army in two separate functions at Tamulpur in Baska and Mariani in Jorhat district on Tuesday.

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