Pro-talk ULFA faction threatens to go underground a year after ceasefire

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Tinsukia (Assam) : A year after the most potent strike unit of the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) announced a unilateral ceasefire, the group Monday threatened to go back to the jungles blaming lack of any government initiative to begin peace talks.

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“After we announced the ceasefire, there is complete peace in the entire upper Assam area (eastern Assam) with not a single incident of violence taking place in the past one year,” pro-talk ULFA faction leader Jiten Dutta told IANS.

“But despite our best efforts and our decision to climb down from our earlier demand of sovereignty or independence to seeking greater autonomy, both the state and the central government simply sat tight and refused to hold talks with us….”

On June 24 last year, the Alpha and Charlie companies of ULFA’s 28th battalion, considered the backbone of the outfit in terms of striking targets and managing funds, sprang a surprise by offering a unilateral ceasefire.

More than 200 cadres led by at least five of their top commanders came over-ground and christened themselves as ‘Pro-talk ULFA faction’.

“We came out and decided to work for peace as we realised the central ULFA leadership was not concerned about Assam’s welfare and solving burning issues. But one year down the line we are of the view that the government and various pressure groups, individuals, organisations, and intellectuals of Assam paid no heed to our peace overtures,” Dutta said.

The ULFA later expelled all the pro-talk commanders and refused to acknowledge the development as a revolt in the outfit.

The state and the central government accepted the truce and helped in setting up designated camps for sheltering the rebels who joined the ceasefire.

“The government’s responsibility cannot end with just setting up of the designated camps. We want a pro-active approach from the government, but so far that is not happening,” the commander of the ULFA’s 28th battalion Mrinal Hazarika told IANS.

Hazarika is now heading the pro-talk ULFA faction.

“There is now a feeling among cadres to once again go back to the jungles although our leaders would continue to fight for greater autonomy democratically,” Dutta said.

Both the pro-talk leaders said the strength and image of the ULFA has taken a beating after they entered into a ceasefire.

“The ULFA is getting marginalised by the day and we are a little surprised as to why the government is not seizing the opportunity to hold peace talks with us to further sideline the handful of ULFA leaders working from abroad,” Hazarika said.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh last year said New Delhi was ready to hold talks with any group, including the pro-talk ULFA faction, if they first surrender arms.

“No revolutionary group would surrender arms and then hold talks,” Dutta said.