ULFA-I strives after dy chief surrender

An appeal has been made to debar ULFA-Independent’s commander Paresh Baruah from joining the process with the Centre, under a single organization. The appeal was made by Anup Chetia, United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) leader and General Secretary.

After deputy commander of ULFA-I, Drishti Rajkhowa announced his decision to surrender, Chetia’s call came forward right after.

According to experts, even though Baruah has his location concealed, he is believed to be operating from somewhere in Chinese region neighbouring Myanmar border. After ULFA decided to withdraw from operations and be with the Indian government for talks without preconditions, Paresh Baruah separated its ways from the organization in 2012.

Chetia asserted, “He never said he is not ready for talks. Let the government listen to what he has to say. We want him to sit at the negotiating table. You may agree or disagree, but let there be no reluctance to listen to his views”.

ULFA’s talks about sovereignty for Assam with the Centre from last 10 years have prevented any such occurrence. Yet, Baruah claims of joining the table if the topic of sovereignty is put under discussion.

The rebel outfit has grown weak significantly after four years of its formation for reasons like logistics to funds and recruitment.

Chetia said that Rajkhowa’s surrender won’t have any major impact on ULFA-I. Taking permission from the outfit the surrender happened as Rajkhowa’s wife was not in good health. Moreover due to lack of funds and new recruitment, it was becoming difficult for Drishti to survive in the Garo Hills and ULFA to continue its legacy.

“Drishti was waging an independent struggle on his own — Paresh uses a satellite phone and Drishti used WhatsApp — this created a hurdle in keeping contact. There were no differences between the two. The relation has always been cordial,” Chetia added.

Chetia said, “The time when we started the movement — the conditions then and now are completely different. There were no proper roads or connectivity, no mobile phones or technology. Today, if an ULFA boy takes shelter in any village, anyone can inform security forces through the mobile phone” .

“It is impossible to survive under such conditions. There have been many apprehensions and deaths too because of that,” said Chetia.

“The funding has also gone down, but Paresh is managing somehow through his sources,” he added.

“The surrenders in ULFA started since 1992. Despite that the outfit has survived. Till recruitment continues, the organisation will survive. In recent times, a lot has to do with government policies as well — many youth joined the ULFA during the anti-CAA movement,” said Chetia.

The former Assam DGP said,“The crackdown by Myanmar Army last year and later must have had its psychological effect too, particularly among the new recruits. There have been many attacks by the Myanmar Army in NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) and ULFA camps in the past. But despite heavy losses, these outfits have survived”.

“The terrain of the region and anti-Myanmarese tribal environment helped them survive. And, from a distance, Paresh Baruah still seems to be in control of the outfit,”.

“There’s nowhere near the Chinese border they could have a proper camp. Paresh Baruah is in Ruili in China, but there are no (rebel) troops there. The old headquarters at Ta Ga in northwestern Myanmar was abandoned in early 2019, but there are still a lot of other camps in the surrounding mountains,” he said.

The outfit signed a tripartite agreement for Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Centre and the Assam government and the ULFA-PTF in September 2011.

A formal split between the factions took place in August 2012 when Baruah expelled Arabinda Rajkhowa and appointed Abhijit Barman as the outfit’s chairman. Consequently, two factions emerged — Anti-talks faction (ULFA-ATF) and pro-talks faction (ULFA-PTF), led by Baruah and Rajkhowa, respectively.

The ULFA-ATF renamed itself as ULFA-Independent in April 2013.