Assam: A Pretending Warrior and Peace Conventions
By Nava Thakuria
It was a major public discussion on insurgency issues of Assam, where thousands gathered under one roof and expressed their legitimate concern on the violence. The State level convention, though turned out to be sympathetic to the banned United Liberation Front of Asom, had come out with number resolutions that might help bringing the militant outfit to engage in peace talks with the central government.The convention titled ‘Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan’ was organized by a group of conscious and concerned citizens on April 24 in Guwahati, where distinguished individuals and representatives from nearly hundred socio-political and ethnic organizations took part. The day long convention called upon both New Delhi and the ULFA to come forward for the negotiation table without any pre-condition (and further delay).In a draft resolution, the convention called upon the government to pave way for free passages to the jailed ULFA leaders such that they can go for an agreed decision (in their central committee meeting) to talk to New Delhi. It also formed a decision making committee with all the members of the forum to continue the peace initiative. An expert committee is also on the card, which would study some relevant issues like right of indigenous people over natural resources, flood, erosion and infiltration to economic development of Assam with an aim to get it available during the talks with New Delhi.The fresh initiative by the conscious citizens’ group assumes significance as an earlier enterprise by the ULFA itself in 2005 did not yield any result. The outfit formed a People’s Consultative Group to pursue peace talks with New Delhi and the PCG members had meetings with the central government for three times. But the adamant stands from both New Delhi and the militant leadership turned the effort futile, as the militant leaders, primarily its military chief Paresh Barua, maintained the demand for discussing the sovereignty issue in the negation table.Amazingly, Dr Hiren Gohain, the convener of the citizen’s forum, claimed to have ‘some informal feelers from the ULFA leadership’ (read Paresh Barua) that they would come for negotiations if proper ambience is created by the government. He however did not forget to mention that the forum does not endorse the theory of secession (of Assam from rest of the India). He only argued that ‘sovereignty can exist even without secession’.But the response from Paresh Barua was not comfortable for the forum.In a statement e-mailed to the media on April 19, the self styled commander-in-chief of ULFA insisted that the outfit would ‘never compromise on the issue of sovereignty’.Paresh Barua not only criticized the forum for its initiative, but also alleged that they had not adequate knowledge about the freedom movement of ULFA. More to it, Paresh Barua said, those intellectuals lacked commitment and responsibility to the freedom loving people of Assam.Terming Dr Gohain, who is widely respected in Assamese society, as an agent of New Delhi, Barua reiterated that the ULFA can not compromise on its demand for a Swadhin Asom. He was clear saying, “There will not be any question of talks without the issue of sovereignty. Because, agreeing to sit for talks without the issue of sovereignty would be like surrendering to the colonial forces (read New Delhi)”.But Dr Gohain, a former Gauhati University professor, dared Paresh Barua’s comment as his personal point of view (and not that of ULFA).In a press statement, Dr Gohain argued that Barua’s comment should not be read as the views of the ULFA as 'Paresh Barua is the military head of the outfit, but ULFA is a political outfit having a central committee to decide the course of actions’. Dr Gohain even asked Barua not to rush for media space with his personal views, rather wait for a central committee meeting of ULFA for an agreed decision.Even the ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa commented that personal views in the critical juncture would only add to the confusion. Talking to media in Guwahati, on way to the court on April 22, Rajkhowa indirectly requested Paresh Barua not to create confusion in the minds of the people of Assam with personal remarks.Mentionable that, except Paresh Barua almost all the top ULFA leaders are taking rest inside the bars in Guwahati and Dhaka (Bangladesh).While the Guwahati central jail is giving shelter to ULFA chief Rajkhowa, political adviser Bhimakanta Buragohain, foreign secretary Shasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka and deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua, the Dhaka central jail is housing its general secretary Anup Chetia for some years.The Indian intelligence sources claim that Paresh Barua is hiding some where in Burma-China border. The notorious militant leader had left Bangladesh after smelling the change of Dhaka’s heart towards New Delhi that finally resulted in deporting some top ULFA leaders to India (from Bangladesh) in the recent past.Amazingly Paresh Barua, as a confident source to the militant leader revealed, imagines himself as the Lachit Barphukan of present days.Uncompromised in his mission for the motherland, the Ahom warrior defended Assam from Mughal invaders centuries back. Paresh Barua keeps his dream alive that he would get the same kind of recognition as that of Lachit Barphukan in the Assamese society.But in reality, Paresh Barua continues receiving the brickbats from various organizations and individuals. Assam Public Works recently commented that Paresh Barua was only spoiling the peace initiatives with his arrogant remrks. The APW president Abhijit Sarma and secretary general Bitu Talukdar, in a recent statement, claimed that the ULFA leader had been held ‘captive by foreign forces like ISI(Pakistan) and DGFI (Bangladesh)’ and hence he can not support any peace attempt for Assam.JB Lama, a Kolkata based senior journalist of Northeast, commented in his media column, “It is no secret that (Paresh) Barua has been consistently sticking to this principle, but in keeping with the changed scenario in the aftermath of ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa’s coming over ground and the fact that most of the outfit’s top leaders are now in Guwahati Jail, he should have at least given some serious thought and made efforts to reconcile with reality instead of rejecting it outright.”On the other hand, political observers in Guwahati argued that the state level convention concluded with the same rhetoric, where the voice against the militant outfit was too weak. The peace negotiators were reluctant in urging the armed leaders to immediately shun the path of violence targeting the unarmed common people of the State.Moreover, the convention did not take note that the ULFA had already lost most of its support bases. If the meeting was organized in early nineties, when the ULFA enjoyed significant supports from the mainstream Assamese, the observers commented, it would have been little fruitful. But with all the disruptive activities of ULFA in the recent past, the outfit only lost its sympathy from the general people and that way the convention lost its credibility to a greater extent.After all, the streets of the same city Guwahati witnessed a momentous protest rally against the ULFA, which was organized by a group of journalist, intellectual and writers on May 30, 2007. The protest march, which was joined by eminent personalities like TG Baruah, DN Chakrabarty, Nirupama Borgohain, Atulananda Goswami, Eli Ahmed, Bhadra Krishna Goswami with many others witnessed raising slogans including ‘Down with ULFA’, ‘We don’t want ULFA’s Sovereign Asom’, ‘ULFA is Assam’s Enemy’, ‘Hang Paresh Barua’ etc.The next day, anti-ULFA groups burnt the effigies of Paresh Barua and Arabinda Rajkhowa in the heart of the city calling the ULFA leadership murderers after the series of deadly bomb blasts took place in the State killing hundreds of innocent people including children.And defying the diktat of the ULFA, the voters of Assam joined in the electoral process during the last elections with impressive turn out.More over, the common people have slowly ignored the threatening appeal of various militant outfits not to celebrate India’s Independence and Republic Day. And more to add, the meetings against the terror activities of the ULFA start enjoying huge public support and it is increasing day by day.
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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul
Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes
articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove,
and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org