By– Hrishikesh Mahanta
What you fear is what is true – Entire Assam was hoping that the lateral talks between the ULFA and Government of India would not be affected by any internal or external factor. But the difference of opinion of the Arabinda Rajkhowa fraction and the Paresh Baruah led hardliner fraction has come out to the biggest threat to ULFA in its upcoming talks with Government. Everyone hoping for a peaceful solution to the conflict is witnessing helplessly how United Liberation Front of Asom(ULFA) is no longer united.
Lack of Unity within ULFA
At various press conferences, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa has always declared that there is no difference within ULFA. He has also declared that Paresh Baruah is their C-in-C of the armed wing. Paresh Baruah, too have been declaring no differences with Arabinda Rajkhowa Fraction. His only difference was directed towards the Mrinal Hazarika and Jiten Dutta led battalion who was expelled from ULFA few years back. However actions speak larger than voice. Anyone can understand from the recent happenings that there is great tension between the ranks of ULFA over the issue of talks with the Government. This is clearly not a good sign and will be used to maximum by the government.
There are two things that are possible here.
A strategic decision to impart pressure.
Firstly, Paresh Baruah’s decision not to join the talks could be strategic for the outfit, so that he can impact pressure on the talks. It is understood that if the entire brass of ULFA leaders and cadres comes out to open, they will be under complete dominance of the Government. Talks under domination from one side on the other might then lead to no fruitful results.
Wait and Watch for conditions to be included in unconditional talks
The other possibility is that Paresh Baruah wants to wait and watch where the lateral talks lead to. The hardliner faction has already announced their conditional support to the talks where they have asked:
- Consider ULFA armed revolution as a democratic-aspiration movement of natives of the land, keeping in mind the inception of their movement in context of time and situation.
- Grant Assam a special status under the Constitution of India by an amendment under Part XXI that deals with Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions. This should enable Assam to draft a publically acceptable Constitution/Legal Document of its own.
- Endow the state government with the right of self-governance and adjudication over any matter relating to socio-political-judicial issues that concern the interests of entire group or community domiciling in Assam.
- There should be an official national anthem for Assam as the Indian federation will not be in a position to change its own national anthem, which grossly discriminates Assam by excluding from the most-audible federal representation.
- A detailed investigation relating to the crimes committed and attributed to either belligerent parties i.e. Federal authority of India and ULFA be it the Kakopathar massacre of 2006 or the blast in Dhemaji. This is to be done through the good offices of International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission (or any credible international organization) that are in a position to deal over issues of international and non-international armed conflicts.
If the Talks do get meaningful and the above are considered, the stand of Paresh Baruah might get different.
No control over press releases
The reason why everyone is sure that there is a big difference within ULFA is its uncontrolled press releases. Especially the press releases sent by the self-claimed Publicity Commander Arunodoy Dohotiya of the hardliner fraction has been accused to be often immature, lacking of reasoning and attacking on fellow members of ULFA. In the last press release sent by Dohotiya two days ago, he went ahead to warn the pro-talk faction of the outfit. The press release accused Heera Sarania, the dreaded commander of the 709 Battalion for conspiring with the Indian state machine in killing of ULFA Sergeant Major Gana Saraniya.
Although both Arabinda Rajkhowa and Paresh Baruah claim there is no difference among them, the press releases speak completely different. The press releases to the media have played a crucial role in the ups and downs of the outfit in the past. At present, only the downfall looks eminent. In fact in previous times too, there were different issues. One such issue was when a CRPF personnel hailing from Assam had gunned down some of his fellow Jawans. Though the reason for this his leave not being sanctioned, Paresh Baruah had announced that the CRPF personnel was a cover agent of ULFA and had accomplished a mission by gunning down fellow Jawans of Indian Security forces! This had led to great controversy and the parents of the CRPF personnel had accused Paresh Baruah saying that his son was not a traitor unlike Baruah and his people.
It is mentionable that Mithinga Daimary is the only Publicity Secretary of the outfit, who is still alive. All his predecessors were either killed or have surrendered. Rajen Sharma alias Uddipta Hazarika was killed (by a Bihari mob), Sunil Nath alias Siddhartha Phukan surrendered in 1992 after the first talk process failed, Arnab Hazarika surrendered in 1994, Hrisiraj Sinha was killed by ULFA as capital punishment for some misdeeds and very popular Swadhinata Phukan alias Kabiranjan Saikia was killed by Army and SULFA in 2000.
If ULFA, especially the hardliner group, does not bring an effective control on its press releases or publicity then the coming lateral talks are bound to be affected. In such a situation, we will be left seeing only one more Assam Accord and no decisive conclusion.