Guwahati: In one of the biggest blows to the proscribed outfit, United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), its hardcore militant and self-styled Corporal Tiger Asom alias Bubul Moran was arrested in a joint operation by Indian Army and Tinsukia police on Wednesday morning.
Tiger Asom (26) is listed in police records as an active ULFA cadre who was involved in the killing of Bordumsa police station officer in-charge Bhaskar Kalita along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Tinsukia district last year. Two others — Binondo Dahotia (24) alias Swadesh Asom and Chandrakant Borgohain (28) alias Tipong Asom have also been apprehended.
“Tinsukia district Police with 21 PARA (SF), battalions of 23 Punjab, Cobra 210 of team Tinsukia and 68 CRPF launched an operation based on specific intelligence inputs, and captured them from the Tarani Reserve Forest under Pengeree police station at 7:30am. We will follow necessary investigation and take action in accordance with law,” said Tinsukia SP Siladitya Chetia.
Security forces have also seized a huge number of arms and ammunition from the arrested cadres. According to Tinsukia police, an AK 81 and AK-56 assault rifle with magazines, a Heckler and Koch-33 assault rifle with magazine, two Chinese hand grenades, 279 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and 146 rounds of 5.56 ammunition have been recovered.
In a separate incident on Monday, another ULFA(I) cadre surrendered before security forces in Upper Assam’s Sivasagar district. An army statement said they have apprehended self-styled corporal Podum Asom alias Rupam Das, an active ULFA (I) cadre, who had also served as a personal security guard of senior ULFA leaders in Myanmar’s Ta ga (headquarters of most northeast militant groups). Based on inputs from locals, a team of 17 Para SF launched an operation and arrested the ULFA cadre from Disangmukh area of Sivasagar district.
The outfit has suffered a series of apprehensions and surrenders in recent times, with sources saying that their numbers are fast dwindling from a maximum cadre strength of about 200. Assam police sources said that since the beginning of 2019, over 20 ULFA (I) cadres have surrendered, so far, and many more are likely to give up.
Signs of desertions had emerged following the crackdown on Northeast rebel groups by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) in Ta Ga about three months ago. The Tatmadaw captured several outposts, training schools, and had recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition while laying siege to the rebel camps. Sources said that the ULFA(I) cadres are scattered now, and have moved closer to the Indian border.
Former Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka believes that Northeast rebel groups including ULFA will continue to be in Myanmar by shifting to new areas that may give them better human and logistic support.
“It looks like everything is not well in the ULFA camp and the crackdown by Myanmar Army must have its psychological effect too, particularly among the new recruits. There have been many attacks by the Myanmar army in NSCN 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,” said Deka.
However, security analysts believe that it’s just a matter of time that northeast militant groups will survive in Myanmar, or bounce back at the same level as they did before.
In recent operational achievements for Indian Army and Assam police, seven ULFA rebels had surrendered before a team of 21 Para SF and Tinsukia police on March 18 after crossing over from Myanmar. Two others surrendered on March 31 in Tinsukia district, followed by three more who surrendered to a joint team of Assam Rifles and Army.
According to army sources, two ULFA-I cadres were reportedly injured in a gun battle with security forces deep inside the Tirap Reserve Forest, south of Nagadubi village along Assam-Arunachal border a week ago.