ULFA recruiting cadres to raise a battalion

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Guwahati : The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has undertaken a massive recruitment drive, a month after it suffered a revolt with two potent striking units declaring a unilateral ceasefire.

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A police spokesman said ULFA militants were wooing youths in the age group of 18 to 24.

“We have reports of a large number of youths going missing in recent weeks from various parts of eastern Assam. We suspect these boys and girls may have been recruited by ULFA,” a police official said.

The fresh recruitment drive comes in the wake of the Alpha and Charlie companies of ULFA’s 28th battalion declaring a unilateral ceasefire last month after accusing their leadership of failing to address major issues facing the state.

The 28th battalion was considered the most potent striking unit of the ULFA.

“There is a vacuum now after the ceasefire by the A and C companies of the ULFA’s 28th battalion. Hence the rebel leadership is desperately trying to reorganise itself and enrol new cadres,” the official said.

“They are mostly targeting unemployed youths from rural areas. Some are recruited forcibly while some are lured with money.”

The ceasefire by the 28th battalion has come as a major setback for the ULFA with their presence in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Jorhat districts diminishing considerably.

“The unilateral ceasefire has definitely come as a major setback for the ULFA. In fact, the truce has taken the teeth away from the ULFA,” Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Four Corps, told IANS.

Jaswal is also the operational head of the Unified Command Structure engaged in a massive anti-insurgency operation against the ULFA and other rebel groups in Assam.

“There is a selective recruitment going on although the ULFA has completely lost all public support,” the army commander said.

Stung by the ceasefire decision, the ULFA is now contemplating raising a battalion to make up for the loss.

“The ULFA is definitely trying to raise a battalion, but with the Alpha and Charlie companies (gone), it would be difficult for any new battalion to get a space in this kind of a situation,” he said.

Intelligence reports indicate that the ULFA was facing problems in getting weapons and explosives after the ceasefire.

“With their main unit in a ceasefire mode and security forces tightening their noose, ULFA’s supply route for weapons is choked and so is their financial position,” a military intelligence official said.

Intelligence reports further said the there could be about 200-odd ULFA cadres of the Bravo company of the 28th battalion active in bases inside Myanmar or parts of Arunachal Pradesh and in eastern Assam.

“Now the focus of the operations is on the 27th, 109, and 709 battalions in central and lower (western) Assam areas. The ULFA is totally shattered in upper (eastern) Assam after the ceasefire,” the GOC said.