Amidst escalation of accusation and counter-accusation between Paresh Baruah led ULFA(Independent) and Pro-Talk ULFA faction led by Arabinda Rajkhowa over the sensational missing or rather kidnapping case of PCG (People’s Consultative Group) member Rebati Kanta Phukan since April 22 has raised speculations about the involvement of a third figure considered equally powerful and one who is not in the side of either ULFA(I) or Pro-Talk ULFA group to be behind the abduction which can be none other than Dristi Rajkhowa former Dy CS of ULFA and now heading GNLA. Notably, Dristi Rajkhowa’s name had surfaced during the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone Sangma in an IED explosion in the run-up to the Meghalaya elections and the subsequent killing of GNLA Commander Sohan D Shira this year.
Dristi Rajkhowa has a long-strained relationship with Paresh Baruah led ULFA(I) and was reportedly aloof and active in Meghalaya and lower Assam. Speculations are ripe that Dristi Rajkhowa may be behind the abduction with a sole aim to rift and split both the ULFA Anti-Talk and Pro-Talk further which would ultimately derail the peace talks that is fast moving towards a final conclusion outcome of which is the likelihood of a signing of a peace accord within the framework of the Indian constitution. Dristi who is alleged to have had a serious rift with the ULFA C-in-C is rumoured to behind many conspiracies to break the ULFA into many parts by triggering infighting. The recent drifting of Dristi Rajkhowa to GNLA had reduced ULFA to a zero in lower Assam. Now whether or not Dristi Rajkhowa kidnapped Rebati Phukan on self-interest or at the behest of someone has become a million dollar question?
While Paresh Baruah has been categorically denying to come to the negotiating table to be a part of the ongoing peace talks until and the, unless the core issue of Sovereignty is discussed the very motive of Paresh Baruah to be involved in the kidnapping of Rebati Phukan – gets automatically ruled out considering the fact that Rebati Phukan is close to the ULFA Chief and a childhood friend. Police had earlier said that Phukan, 65 went missing after he left his rented house at Ambikagiri Nagar for morning walk on April 22 and was last seen by an auto-rickshaw driver near the Assam State Zoo. However, Phukan left both his mobile phones back in the house and was in a short pant and T-Shirt.
Phukan’s son Kaushik Phukan told reporters that his father could have become a victim for his efforts to bring Paresh Barua to the negotiation table. In a statement to the media, Kaushik was heard saying,” My father has been trying to facilitate talks between ULFA and the Government for a long time. He visited Bangladesh, China and Myanmar between 2007 and 2015 to meet Barua. For the past three months, he has been working on the clauses of a document which have been acceptable to the ULFA(I) leader to initiate negotiations.”
The question remains what interest would Rebati Phukan’s kidnapping serve the Pro-Talk ULFA especially when it’s nearing close to the signing of a peace accord with the government and without Paresh Barua. Earlier the ULFA Chief during a live telephonic interview to a local news channel from an unknown destination cited the kidnapping as the handiwork of some pro-talk leaders who were opposed to him joining the talks. He said if Phukan had indeed worked out a process through which the Government of India would discuss the contentious subject of ‘Sovereignty’ with ULFA(I), ‘It would be easy to see who would be affected by it”.
However people keeping a close watch on the developments and the aftermaths of the Rebati Phukan episode pointed out to the ULFA Chief’s claim and the statement as vague and pretentious because of the fact that the Indian government had stepped up efforts to involve Barua in the peace process in a bid to find a long-lasting and peaceful solution to the decades old insurgency problem plaguing the state. Had there been a green signal from the elusive commander to Rebati the same would have been welcomed by the centre as Rebati Phukan would have first conveyed the message directly to the government and not necessarily to the Pro-Talk group. The mere joining of Paresh Barua at the behest of a government initiative would have completed the Pro-talk set up of ULFA to negotiate and settle the vexed issue of insurgency.
Whatever be the speculations but one point has clearly come out that all including Paresh Barua, Arabinda Rajkhowa and Anup Chetia, present and former ULFA’s want the PCG member to return back in good health and the recent volleys of exchange between the pro-talk and anti-talk only points to the state of helplessness and frustration owing to the kidnapping and missing of Rebati Phukan.
Update on 14, May, 2018: ULFA(I) CS Paresh Asom stated disgrace on this report. His clarification is updated on https://www.timesofassam.com/headlines/rebati-phukan-kidnapped-by-those-who-dont-want-me-in-talk-ulfa-i-cs-paresh-asom/.