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Message from ULFA is clear. Don't underestimate it

Last updated on: March 15, 2011 21:47 IST

Message from ULFA is clear. Don't underestimate it

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Vipin Borgohain in Guwahati

Paresh Baruah's shadow continues to loom large in Assam's political landscape.

Despite being reduced to being the leader of a rump of what was once a powerful insurgent group, the self-styled commander-in-chief of the anti-talk faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom still sends shivers down the collective spine of the politicians in Assam.

On Monday, his group demonstrated its ability to strike at will when it triggered an Improvised Explosive Device at the state Congress headquarters just when it seemed that Assam will witness a violence-free election for the first time in over two decades.

Although Congress functionaries got away with minor injuries to five people, the very fact that an improvised explosive device could be planted in a highly-secure and busy Congress HQ in state capital Guwahati shows that the group -- no matter how small and outnumbered -- does retain an ability to create trouble in the state.

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Image: File photo of ULFA cadres. (Inset) Paresh Baruah

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In less than 24 hours after the incident, an encounter between a group of Baruah's cadres and an Assam Police team in the upper Assam district of Tinsukia left a police inspector dead. Two anti-talk ULFA militants were also killed.

These two incidents coupled with an ambush of a BSF patrol party by another anti-talk faction of a separate militant group -- the National Democratic Front of Bodoland -- that killed eight BSF jawans once again brings militancy in Assam back in focus and comes as a warning to the law enforcement agencies that they cannot take peace or the disgruntled factions of these two groups for granted.

These incidents and warning by hardline factions of ULFA and NDFB that politicians in Assam will be targeted in the run up to the polls slated for April 4 and 11, is an indication that once again the election process in the state will not be free of a violent underpinning.



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Since 1991, when the ULFA and NDFB were at their peak, every election in the state has seen violence of varying degree.

This time it was thought to be different as over the past two years, the government had managed to force both these once-powerful militant groups to the negotiating table through a combination of tact and force.

Several top ULFA leaders starting with its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa were caught in Bangladesh and handed over to India by Bangladesh security agencies. NDFB's Ranjan Daimary is also in jail.

Arabinda Rajkhowa, in fact, led a team of top leaders of ULFA to Delhi and held preliminary talks with the Centre last months.



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But Paresh Baruah, who along with Rajkhowa founded the ULFA in 1979, remains as opposed to any talks with the Indian government that do not include Assam's sovereignty on the agenda as he was in 1991 when the first attempt to negotiate peace in Assam was made by the PV Narasimha Rao government.

While the people of Assam no longer support the ULFA as passionately as they did in the 1980s and the 1990s, Paresh Baruah -- who is reportedly hiding with close supporters somewhere along the north-east Myanmar-China border -- continues to retain the ability to create nuisance in Assam. 


Image: File photo of Arabinda Rajkhowa

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