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From Killing Own Militants to Creating 'Sleeper Cells', Why ULFA(I) Has Suddenly Become Aggressive

The intelligent report pointed out that northeast-based Indian separatist groups have been facing a harrowing time inside Myanmar after the crackdown on the camps of the outfits in Myanmar.

Pranjal Baruah | News18

Updated:May 17, 2019, 1:49 PM IST
From Killing Own Militants to Creating 'Sleeper Cells', Why ULFA(I) Has Suddenly Become Aggressive
File photo of ULFA (I) militants

Guwahati: The elusive Paresh Baruah-led United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) hardliner faction, believed to have suffered a major blow due to the recent crackdown upon the militant outfits from the Northeastern states in the Sagaing region of Myanmar by the Tatmadaw Kyee (Myanmar Army), is suspected to have triggered the grenade blast in Assam’s capital city of Guwahati on Wednesday as a part of its strength’s ‘show off’ in the region.

The preliminary investigation into the blast revealed that the grenade was lobbed at a police picket stationed at the RG Baruah road near a shopping mall in which two Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) jawans along with nine others suffered injuries.

On Wednesday, the blast took place few minutes after Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had asked the city police to beef up its vigilance to curve any kind of criminal activities in a meeting with the top brass of the state police.

Assam Police Director General Kuladhar Saikia said, “Assam Police had stepped up its vigilance after intelligence alerts. Though it’s too early to say anything right now but it’s sure that the state police have succeeded to put a dent on ULFA (I)’s strength by nabbing several numbers of ULFA (I) militants in recent months. Many have surrendered too.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Tinsukia Police in upper Assam too nabbed three ULFA (I) members in a counterinsurgency operation named ‘operation Tarani’ in a joint operation with the Army in the Tarani reserve forest.

The operation was launched after intel reports suggested that a group of ULFA (I) militants had sneaked into the state from across the borders. The arrestees included the outfit’s top and most wanted leader Bubul Moran alias Tiger Asom, a self-styled lance corporal Binondo Dahotia alias Swadesh Asom and self-styled private Chandrakanta Borgohain alias Tipong Asom. One MQ 81, one HK 33 and one AK 56 rifles along with 400 rounds of live ammunition, 9 magazines and 2 hand grenades were also seized from their possession,” said Tinsukia Police sources adding that the militants have suspected to have fled from Myanmar.

Prior to it, a self-styled ‘Lieutenant’ Udgiran Asom surrendered before the Laju Police in the Tirap district of Arunachal-Pradesh after the Myanmar army came down heavily against the rebel outfit. Udgiran was appointed as a staff officer under ULFA (I) Major General Jivan Moran, the second-in-command of the faction of the ULFA led by Paresh Baruah.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the Guwahati blast incident too pointed at ULFA (I)’s attempt in establishing ‘sleeper-cells’ in the capital city to carry out subversive activities. On Thursday, the Guwahati police launching an operation following the blast arrested two including a female actress from city’s Panjabari area.

“The revolution will continue. Until the political solution is achieved, the revolution will go on,” said Pranamoy Rajguru believed to be a ULFA (I) sympathizer while arrested by the city police. Rajguru along with one Jahnabi Saikia was arrested on Thursday for having alleged connection to the militant outfit. During a raid at Saikia’s rented residence at Panjabari, police have recovered a 9mm pistol, 20 kilos of explosives and incriminating documents including ULFA letter pads from their possession.

Guwahati Police Commissioner Deepak Kumar told media, “Rajguru is associated with ULFA for a very long time. He was operating as a sleeper cell member in Guwahati and adjoining areas and believed to have helped the outfit to execute their plans. Further investigation will reveal more.” The commissioner added that a few others were yet to be nabbed.

Former Director General of Police (DGP) Assam, GM Shrivastava said, “ULFA (I) creating sleeper cells to execute their plans is the latest trend and it needs to be to analysed more deeply.”

Though the ULFA-independent chief Paresh Baruah claimed responsibility for the blast by calling from an undisclosed location to a section in regional media after the incident, he chose not to make any comments on Rajguru’s arrest. However, pro-talk ULFA leader Anup Chetia said, “Rajguru is not a ULFA member.”

The intelligent report pointed out that northeast-based Indian separatist groups have been facing a harrowing time inside Myanmar after the crackdown on the camps of the outfits in Myanmar. Sources said that many who had managed to flee the camps have contacted state police for surrender ‘negotiations’.

The Myanmar army has been carrying out operations against anti-Indian rebel outfits since January this year. Several ULFA (I) and Naga outfit members were reportedly being arrested by the Myanmar army too.

A top state police official added, “The level of desperation amongst the ULFA(I) is so much that its leaders have awarded death penalty to three of its own cadres for trying to flee the camps and surrender.”

The three cadres were identified as Lalit Asom, Ashwini Asom and Rhino Asom aka Rubul Moran were killed by the outfit members, claimed ULFA (I) militant Mridul Mahanta aka Nibir Asom, who was apprehended by the Indian Army in Arunachal Pradesh recently.

The trio was believed to be escaping from the Ta Ga areas of Sagaing region in Myanmar. Earlier a press statement by the Myanmar authority had said that it had occupied two outposts and two training schools in the southwest of Takar village, one temporary outpost in the north, and one outpost in the west of Takar.

Sources claimed that hundreds of ULFA (I), National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and Naga militants have dispersed in different directions after the raid. While many belonging to Manipur and Nagaland based outfits have moved to Myanmar’s Sagaing Division, ULFA (I) and NDFB cadres shifted to the hills in the Pangmi regions nearing Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district bordering Assam. However, they were reported to be starving due to a scarcity of food in the jungles and willing to surrender.

Security experts added that the terrain of the region and anti-Myanmarese tribal environment have been helping these outfit members to survive in the neighbouring country. A senior state police official in Tinsukia added, “They (ULFA-I) have now no place to go but to return to India. With Arunachal Pradesh police too is working in tandem with state police, the militants have nowhere to go now. We have chocked their supply routes too.”

Though Paresh Baruah led ULFA (I) has reportedly established its bases in Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the outfit has been facing major hurdles with Indian government constantly putting pressure on the neighbouring countries to act against the militant outfits working against India.

In 2003, the ULFA had suffered its biggest blow during Operation All Clear in Bhutan and the crackdown in Bangladesh in 2009 when hundreds of the militants were either captured or eliminated by the security forces with the help of their counterparts in the neighbouring countries.

The outfit, however, renewed its recruitment drive recently after the state came in contact with the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeking citizenship of Hindu Bangladeshis. The hardliner faction’s ‘refreshed’ recruitment drive came as a major blow to the state government when a top student leader from Golaghat district, Pankaj Pratim Dutta, surfaced in a video clip announcing his joining in the militant outfit.

Dressed in camouflage and holding an AK rifle in an unknown jungle, Dutta said that he had joined the outfit to be a part of the fight for the people of the state who have been oppressed by the Centre.

ULFA (pro-talk) faction leader Anup Chetia hinted that the growing insecurity amongst the youths of the state due to the current political scenario has made them ‘highly vulnerable’. Chetia said, “Time and again, we have said that if the bill is passed, youths from the state may choose to join rebel forces.” He also criticized the state government for taking a ‘weak’ stand on the bill which according to the faction has created a rift amongst various linguistic communities in the state.

Earlier in September last year, Assam police had managed to stop at least three youths and a minor from Bordumsa in Tinsukia district while they were planning to join the militant outfit.

They were reportedly nabbed while making their move to the outfit’s hideouts located somewhere in eastern Nagaland. Sources added that youths from Kakopathar, Sadiya, Pengeri and Bordumsa area in Tinsukia district were targeted to join the rebel outfit.

Baksa and Nalbari districts in lower Assam and Golaghat, Charaideo, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia in upper Assam were marked as vulnerable areas in the state in terms of the outfit’s recruitment ground too.

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