From our Rupee News columnist in Dhaka Bangladesh
Formation: Asom Sanjukta Mukti Morcha or the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was formed on April 7, 1979 by Bhimakanta Buragohain, Rajiv Rajkonwar alias Arabinda Rajkhowa, Golap Baruah alias Anup Chetia, Samiran Gogoi alias Pradip Gogoi, Bhadreshwar Gohain and Paresh Baruah at the Rang Ghar in Sibsagar to establish a “sovereign socialist Assam” through an armed struggle.
War Cry: Joi Ai Asom
Arabinda Rajkhowa is the ‘Chairman’ of ULFA. ‘Vice Chairman’ Pradip Gogoi was arrested on April 8, 1998 , and is currently in judicial custody at Guwahati. ‘General Secretary’ Anup Chetia is under detention in the Bangladeshi Dhaka after being arrested on December 21, 1997. The outfit’s founding member and ideologue Bhimakanta Buragohain, ‘Publicity Secretary’ Mithinga Daimary and ‘Assistant Secretary’ Bolin Das were arrested during the military operations in Bhutan in December 2003. Earlier, ‘Cultural Secretary’ Pranati Deka was arrested at Phulbari in the West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.
Other leaders are: Bhimkanta Buragohin, Pradip Gogoi alias Samiran Gogoi, Mithinga Daimari, Pranati Deka and Ramu Mech ,Mithinga Daimary (real name Dipak Das),The cultural secretary of the Ulfa, Pranati Deka hails from Nalbari district. She is the wife of the group’s finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika. She was first arrested from a Mumbai hospital in 1996. Later, she was released on bail in 1998 only to be arrested again at Phulbari, Meghalaya in 2003 while trying to escape.
The ULFA has a clearly partitioned political and military wing. Paresh Barua heads the military wing as the outfit’s ‘commander-in-chief’. Following the military operations in Bhutan in December 2003, most of its top leadership reportedly operates from unspecified locations. According to reports, ULFA is in the process of relocating its camps in Myanmar, Mon district of Nagaland, Garo hills of Meghalaya and Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Areas of Activity and Influence
The ULFA’s organisational structure is divided into four zones:
East Districts(Purb Mandal)
West Districts(Paschim Mandal)
Central Districts(Madhya Mandal)
South Districts(Dakshin Mandal)
Sanjukta Mukti Fouj (SMF):
A military wing of the ULFA, the Sanjukta Mukti Fouj (SMF) was formed on March 16, 1996 . SMF has three full-fledged battalions (Bn): the 7th, 28th and 709th. The remaining battalions exist only on paper – at best they have strengths of a company or so. Their allocated spheres of operation are:
7th Bn (HQ- Sukhni) Responsible for defence of GHQ
8th Bn Nagaon, Morigaon, Karbi Anglong
9th Bn Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar
11th Bn Kamrup, Nalbari
27th Bn Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar
28th Bn Tinsukia, Dibrugarh
709th Bn Kalikhola
Links and camps:
The ULFA sought shelter in the forests on the Indo-Bhutan border from the early 1990s and established several camps in the forest areas of southern Bhutan. Over the years, it reportedly developed linkages with several officers and personnel of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and Police – which ensured, among other things, a steady flow of rations, logistical support as well as aid and contacts for money laundering. The ULFA’s Bhutan set-up had a reported strength of around 2000 cadres spread across the outfit’s ‘General Head Quarters’, it’s ‘Council Head Quarters’, a ‘Security Training Camp’ and a well-concealed ‘Enigma Base’. Numbering around 13 in all, the major camps of the ULFA in Bhutan included:
5. Pemagatsel Complex
9. Sukhni (Merungphu): ‘General HQ’
11. Phukaptong: ‘Council HQ’
12. Dalim-Koipani (Orang)
13. Neoli Debarli
Most camps and other establishment of the ULFA were in Sandrup Jongkhar, a district in southern Bhutan that borders Assam’s Nalbari district. The RBA is reported to have destroyed all the outfit’s camps and observation posts during the military operations launched in December 2003.
In 1986, ULFA first established contacts with the then unified National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) of Myanmar for training and arms. ULFA linked up with the Kachins through the ‘good offices’ of the Naga rebels. It learnt the rudiments of insurgent tactics from the Kachins (who reportedly charged Rupees 100,000 per trainee). Subsequently, links were established with Pakistan ‘s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Afghan Mujahideen. Reports indicate that at least 200 ULFA activists received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Bangladesh authorities arrested its leader Anup Chetia on December 21, 1997 . He is currently under detention at the high-security Dhaka Central Jail. The main charges against Chetia include illegal entry into Bangladesh, possession of two forged Bangladeshi passports, possession of an unauthorised satellite telephone and illegal possession of foreign currency of countries as diverse as the US, UK, Switzerland, Thailand, Philippines, Spain, Nepal, Bhutan, Belgium, Singapore and others. Two other accomplices, identified as Babul Sharma and Laxmi Prasad, were also arrested along with Chetia.
ULFA gradually expanded its network to include operational control of activities and the receipt and shipment of arms in transit before they finally entered India. Owing to greater vigil along the known routes of ULFA arms flow, the group has, in recent times, been making attempts to set up bases in Meghalaya, especially in the West Garo Hills to coordinate the transit of arms.
ULFA has for long maintained close linkages with the Pakistan’s ISI which procured several passports for Paresh Baruah and other ULFA cadres. Several ULFA cadres have also received arms training from the ISI at various training centres in Pakistan, close to the Afghanistan border. ULFA had also announced its support for Pakistan during the Kargil war. They described the Pakistani intruders – primarily Pakistani Army regulars and Afghan mercenaries – as ‘freedom fighters’.
Reports indicate that the ULFA’s mouthpiece, ULFA’s a website newsletter Swadhinata also known as ‘Freedom’, receives editorial support from ISI inside Pakistan. It was in ‘Freedom’ that the ULFA first supported the Pakistanis during the Kargil war. The ISI has provided ULFA cadres with arms training, safe havens, funds, arms and ammunition. Training has been given at camps in Pakistan and Bhutan.
At least 300 ULFA cadres were also trained at Rawalpindi and other locations in Pakistan. The training included courses in the use of rocket launchers, explosives and assault weapons. Paresh Baruah has been regularly visiting Karachi since 1992-93. He is also reported to have met Osama bin Laden in 1996 during a visit to Karachi.
The ULFA leader was reportedly taken to a camp on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where he not only received assurance of military help in the form of arms and ammunition, but also assurances of co-operation and logistical support of all international organisations owing allegiance to bin Laden, including the International Jehad Council, the Tehrik-ul-Jehad, Harkat-ul-Jehadi-e-Islami (HuJI), apart from the Al Qaeda.
The ISI has also trained ULFA terrorists in counter intelligence, disinformation and use of sophisticated weapons and explosives. Pakistan has facilitated the visits of Paresh Baruah and other ULFA leaders to Singapore , Thailand and other countries, and a channel for the transfer of funds and arms has been created. The ISI largesse enabled ULFA to buy arms in Cambodia, paying for these in hard currency routed through Nepal. The ISI also ‘introduced’ ULFA to LTTE transporters who, for a fee, undertook to transport arms from Southeast Asia into Myanmar. In April 1996, Bangladesh seized more than 500 AK-47 rifles, 80 machineguns, 50 rocket launchers and 2,000 grenades from two ships off Cox’s Bazaar. Four Tamils were among those arrested
Co-operation between various terrorist organisations in India’s north-east and foreign groups was formalised with the formation of the Indo-Burmese Revolutionary Front (IBRF) in 1989. The IBRF was made up initially of the NSCN-K, ULFA, United Liberation Front of Bodoland, Kuki National Front (KNF) (all from India) and Chin National Front ( Myanmar). Paresh Baruah is reported to have paid a substantial sum of money to the Kachins for the first large consignment of weapons from Thailand.
Manerplaw in lower Myanmar on the border with Thailand is the stronghold of the rebel Karen National Union which, in 1993, is reported to have delivered, from the Cambodian arms market, AK-56 rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled guns and anti-tank rifles to the ULFA. The organisation’s cadres have identified an arms dealer as an ethnic Kachin and wife of an assassinated Manipuri rebel Themba Song. The Communist Party of Burma is known to have gifted some weapons, mainly Chinese-made M10 rifles, to ULFA and Naga terrorist organisations.
Arrested ULFA cadres have claimed that Baruah used to smuggle heroin, procured in Myanmar into Assam as part of “a personal operation”. According to surrendered ULFA cadres, the ULFA terrorists had also crossed over into China via Bhutan and established contact with the Chinese Army.
The group, on the basis of these contacts, had a rendezvous with a Chinese ship on the high seas in March 1995 during which a weapons’ consignment was transferred to them. A further consignment ultimately landed up in Bhutan in 1999, though it was actually acquired in 1997. ULFA also runs profitable narcotics business in Myanmar and Thailand. A close nexus between ULFA and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had also been reported. The LTTE is reported to have trained various ULFA cadres in explosives handling.
ULFA as a Revolutionary Organization:
United Liberation Front of Assam, ULFA, a revolutionary political organisation was born on the lawns of the historic Rang Ghar of Sibsagar on 7th April 1979.
ULFA’S aims & objects :
To liberate Assam , (a land of 78,529 square K.M.), through Armed national liberation struggle from the clutches of the illegal occupation of India and to establish a sovereign Independent Assam.
ULFA represents, as its name implies, not only the Assamese nation but also the entire independent minded struggling peoples, irrespective of different race-tribe-caste-religion and nationality of Assam. The struggle for national liberation of Assam never is a separatist or secessionist movement. Assam was never a part of India at any point of time in history. The fact is independent Assam has been occupied by India , and deploying occupation forces they are oppressing our peoples and persecuting them. ULFA itself and all freedom fighters of Assam are neither planning nor conspiring to break up India! We are not conducting any armed operation inside India . Freedom fighters of Assam are only trying to overthrow Indian colonial occupation from Assam.
The armed struggle for self-defence: The people of Assam are confronting with various problems. Among those, the National identity problem is basic. The communal riot that was followed by the partition of India and Pakistan was responsible for the influx of foreigners from the Indian sub-continent in large scale and thereby caused a real threat to the demographic composition of Assam. India has all along encouraged this influx because of a population base having ethnic affinity with main land India is always favourable to their long term security perspective. This is one of India ‘s major aspects of colonial occupation of Assam.
In economic sphere, India has been engaged in large-scale exploitation. Despite its rich resources, Assam remains one of the most backward states. Therefore, the question of real threat to the national identity of the people of Assam under the colonial occupation and exploitation of India has become the basic problem. As a whole, the problem has become a question of life and death to the people of Assam.
The people of Assam confronted with the aforesaid problems such as influx of foreigners and massive exploitation of its natural resources and determined as national identity problem after summing up them. Against the gross injustice for sheer survival as a nation, as a people and as individuals, the people of Assam many times launched democratic and unarmed peaceful movement. However, India ruthlessly suppressed and crushed them ignoring the value of democratic movement. Though the people of Assam and leadership of the struggle have a strong stand for peaceful and amicable solution of the conflict, India has always been trying to force a military solution.
Indian military operation in Assam:
The main intention of this operation is to suppress the legitimate aspiration of the people of Assam , and their basic and fundamental human rights i.e., national self-determination. There are endless lists of gross human rights violations during this period by Indian occupation forces. They have killed hundreds of innocent people, hundred more have disappeared in their custody and many of our womenfolk have been raped while many more hundreds have been severely tortured to become handicapped. It is the reflection of direct consequence of colonial repressive policy of India. Today, Assam is an occupied country under Indian’s martial law and an undeclared war inside Assam is running on. Any thing may happen at any time inside this war theatre. Colonial India ‘s this repressive policy compel to the freedom fighters of Assam to take up arms for self-defence. So, armed national liberation struggle of Assam is a democratic struggle for the survival of a Nation.
ULFA commander Paresh Barua:
One of the ‘most wanted’ north-east terrorist leader, the 45-yr-old ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Barua is a versatile radical who has been successful in evading Indian forces for long despite non-stop efforts by the latter. Wanted for a series of robberies, killings and extortions, he is believed to be currently based in Bangladesh or Bhutan. Trained in guerrilla war by ISI, Kachin Independent Army (KIA) of Myanmar and NSCN, he can handle all kinds of weapons, travels on forged passports and identity cards and lives on money obtained from extortion or robbery.
Also known as Paban Barua and Pradip Barua. He, he is 173 cms in height, has black hair and black eyes, a scar on the palm of his right hand. On May 10, 1985 he and some others raided a bank in Guwahati and shot the manager and stole a sum of Rs 27, 549.62 in cash. Often dubbed as ‘braveheart’ by many ULFA sympathisers, he has had brush with death several times, including in Dec 2000 when he was seriously wounded in a factional gun-battle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. But there is other side of Barua story too. Born on May 1, 1957 , he is a very good football player, can speak a number of languages including English, Bengali, Hindi, Naga and Singpho and of course Assamese, his mother tongue.
Insurgent Outfits in North East India
National Liberation Front of Arunachal: Koj Tara Dragon Force (ADF)
United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA): Paresh Baruah, Arbinda Rajkhoa,
Anup Chetia, Daimari, Pradip Gogoi
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS)
Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF)
Dima Halim Daogah (DHD)
Karbi National Volunteers (KNV)
Rabha National Security Force (RNSF)
Koch-Rajbongshi Liberation Organisation (KRLO)
Hmar People’s Convention- Democracy (HPC-D)
Karbi People’s Front (KPF)
Barak Valley Youth Liberation Front (BVYLF)
United Liberation Front of Barak Valley
United National Liberation Front (UNLF)
People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK)
Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF)
Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)
Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL)
Manipur Liberation Tiger Army (MLTA)
Iripak Kanba Lup (IKL)
People’s Republican Army (PRA)
Kangleipak Kanba Kanglup (KKK)
North East Minority Front (NEMF)
Kuki National Front (KNF)
Kuki National Army (KNA)
Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA)
Kuki National Organisation (KNO)
Hmar People’s Convention (HPC)
Hmar People’s Convention- Democracy (HPC-D)
Hmar Revolutionary Front (HRF)
Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA)
Zomi Revolutionary Volunteers (ZRV)
Indigenous People’s Revolutionary Alliance(IRPA)
Kom Rem People’s Convention (KRPC)
Chin Kuki Revolutionary Front (CKRF)
Bru National Liberation Front
Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC)
Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC)
People’s Liberation Front of Meghalaya (PLF-M)
Hajong United Liberation Army (HULA)
National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) – NSCN(IM)
National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) – NSCN (K)
Naga National Council-NNC (Adino)
National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT): Biswamohan Debbarma,
All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) : Ranjit Debbarma
Tripura Tribal Volunteer Force (TTVF)
Tripura Liberation Force (TLF)
All Tripura Volunteer Force (ATVF)
Tripura National Army (TNA)
Borok National Council of Tripura (BNCT)
Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (KLO)