Guwahati: In a move aimed at buying peace in restive Assam, the Indian government might consider giving safe passage to Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), instead of describing him as arrested.
"Rajkhowa could be provided safe passage by the Indian government for using his services for furthering peace talks with New Delhi and hence (the government is) not spelling out his details, including whether he has been arrested or he surrendered or is just with Indian authorities on his own," an intelligence official said.
Intelligence sources on Wednesday confirmed Rajkhowa`s arrest in Bangladesh and that he had been subsequently handed over to Indian authorities along the India-Bangladesh border in Tripura.
There are also reports that Rajkhowa has been flown in to New Delhi late Wednesday, although there was no official confirmation.
That the Indian government was already in touch with the ULFA top leadership was evident when union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha Wednesday that the ULFA leadership would make a political statement in the next two days.
"There is something going on at the highest level and maybe that is the reason why the entire development is kept a secret," Haidar Hussain, editor of mass circulation Assamese daily Asomiya Pratidin, told a news service.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is scheduled to make a formal statement about the latest developments at a press conference in Guwahati at 12.30 pm on Thursday.
"The chief minister would brief the media and share whatever information he has," said his press adviser Debo Kumar Bora.
The `arrest` of Rajkhowa, listed as one of India`s most wanted separatist leader, is mired in confusion with authorities not making any statement about his whereabouts.
But reports of the `arrest` have already evoked positive reactions.
"We hope Arabinda Rajkhowa would now take the lead in pushing the peace process forward. We are with him if he takes the initiative to engage in peace talks with the government," Mrinal Hazarika, leader of the pro-talk ULFA faction, told a news service.
Hazarika, along with about 150 rebels of the Alpha and Charlie companies of ULFA`s 28th battalion, declared a unilateral ceasefire in July last year.
The Alpha and Charlie companies were the two most potent striking units of the ULFA.
There are also reports that at least five more senior ULFA leaders were captured along with Rajkhowa.
Earlier last month, Bangladesh handed over ULFA`s self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury and finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika to Indian authorities.
The duo is now in police custody.