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Talking about the erosion of ULFA's support bases

Nava Thakuria
The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is not only facing the heat of Indian security forces in many parts of Northeast, but also countering wrath from two prominent Asom based social organizations, who remained their sympathizers till few months back. In fact, ULFA seems to loose important support bases drastically soon after their unethical comments against All Assam Students Union (AASU) and Asom Sahitya Sabha (ASS). Countering the derogative remarks by the ULFA leaders, both the dominant organizations in Asomiya society made it clear that they donot support the idea of a 'Sovereign Asom', as being pursued by the outfit since its birth in 1979. The AASU and ASS leaderships were followed by the leading regional political party, Asom Gana Parishad to negate the demand of a 'Swadhin Asom' out of India.

It started with a war of words between AASU leaders and ULFA military chief Paresh Baruah. The militant leader tried to brand AASU as an agent of the 'oppressive state' machinery, which was bounced back by the AASU leaders with strong words. The students body, which carried out the historic Assam Agitation in Eighties against the illegal migrants from Bangladesh warned ULFA leaders not to make any derogative comments against them. "We owe our full commitment to the indigenous people of Asom and do not need a certificate of patriotism from ULFA leaders," declared Dr Samujjal Bhattacharjee, the senior student leader and advisor to AASU.

Addressing the scribes in their office in Guwahati on January 18, the AASU leaders including  its president Sankar Prasad Rai and general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi even castigated ULFA chief for his  'mysterious silence' on the influx issue and the ISI (of Pakistan) sponsored Islamic militancy in the state. "We want to reiterate again and again that the greatest threat to Asom at this moment is the influx from Bangladesh and of course the presence of ISI, which has been aiding the fundamentalist forces in the region," asserted Dr Bhattacharjee. The AASU leaders unanimously demanded the government to take immediate actions against the Islamic militants active in the region.

The students union also rejected ULFA's recent comments that AASU should take initiative to bring a letter from the government for direct talks with the outfit on the issue of sovereignty. "As sovereign Asom doesnot  go with our philosophy, there is no question of  AASU taking any  such initiatives, as Paresh Barua  challenged few days back," asserted Dr Bhattacharjee. He however added that AASU would try their best for a peaceful negotiation with ULFA for the sack of the trouble torn state and its 26 million people.

The banned armed group of Asom had been in media headline for its brutal killing and explosions in crowded places that snatched away the lives of nearly hundred people just in a fortnight. A series of bloodbaths, carried out by the ULFA militants since the first week of January was followed by frequent explosions in many parts of Asom including Guwahati, the prime city of Northeast during the period. Meanwhile, the government launched a massive counter insurgency operation against the ULFA cadres in Asom and its adjacent Arunachal Pradesh, where nearly 20,000 soldiers are being engaged. The security personnel busted many ULFA hideouts during the operation and also arrested more than fifteen cadres, where as five cadres were killed in encounter.

Hard news was waiting for ULFA once more. Condemning the recent killings of common people by the militants, Asom Sahitya Sabha, the highest literary forum of the state clarified that it also did not subscribe the idea of ULFA's Independent Asom. The ASS president Kanaksen Deka declared that Asom was and would remain an inseparable part of India. Known for his critical observations against the outfit for its all kinds of misdeeds, Mr Deka apprehended little success out of the ULFA talks as its leaders maintained adamant stand on the sovereignty issue. Arguing that the sovereignty of the country is non-negotiable as the 'Indian Constitution does not permit secession', Mr Deka, also a senior most journalist and the editor of ‘Dainik Agradoot’ urged the ULFA leaders to pursue talks on various developmental issues related to Northeast. He also added, "My appeal to the militant outfit is that they should adopt democratic process to win peoples' support and finally possess power, but certainly not with the arms on hands."

Mr Deka, who has been unresponsively described as a Research and Analytical Wing (RAW) agent by the ULFA leaders, also called upon the Prime Minister Dr Singh, who incidentally represents Asom in Rajya Sabha, to take personal interest for ensuring economic development in the state. Admitting that a sense of deprivation and alienation from the mainland still exist among a huge populace in the region, Mr Deka sought political will to address many burning issues of Asom like flood, infiltration and unemployment of youths at the earliest.

Later ASS organized a silent procession in Guwahati on January 24, where hundreds of people cutting across the society participated. Addressing the rally participants, the ASS president Mr Deka ridiculed ULFA's interpretation of 'Indian colonial rule' on Asom and asserted, "Asom joined in India's Freedom Struggle wholly and actively. Moreover, great Asomiya personalities like Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bardoloi, Rohini Choudhury, Dharanidhar Basumatari with many others not only joined freedom movement, but also worked on Indian Constitution after independence."

Incidenelly, the main opposition party in the state Assembly, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) declared its stand on sovereignty issue that they too donot support the core demand of ULFA. The decision came out unanimously after a policy-making meeting of AGP, presided over by its chief Brindavan Goswami recently. Till late, the AGP leaders was sympathetic to ULFA and used to condemn Traun Gogoi led Asom government for its failure to bring the outfit for negotiation table. It may be mentioned that AGP, identified as an important regional political party in Northeast was formed in 1984 after culmination of AASU led Assam  Agitation and it formed governments in Dispur (Guwahati) for two times.      

The ULFA leaders used to take advantage of the situation where many influential Asom based organizations maintained sympathy to the members of the outfit. Moreover, the ULFA leaders left no stone unturned to exploit the usual anti-New Delhi sentiment possessed by a huge sunk of indigenous Asomiya people and also a section of media persons. Many times, these organizations went on extending issue based supports to ULFA, which confused the common people very much. Now when the AASU, ASS and AGP leaders clarified their stand on sovereignty issue, it would seemingly be difficult for ULFA to harvest from an indecisive and disturbing ambiance. The ULFA leaders are believed to face more hammering tasks to maintain their campaigns in future, even after they survive the ongoing counter insurgency operation against their cadres in the region.

Nava Thakuria is a senior journalist and based in Guwahati.