ULFA and Assam Insurgency
ULFA is the oldest outfit of Assam, founded by Paresh Baruah in April 1979, with the aim of liberating Assam “from the Indian colonial regime” through “armed struggle” and to bring about a “radical transformation of the Assamese society through scientific socialism”.
This outfit had its support base in Brahamputra Valley, with training camps and sanctuaries in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh as well as in Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It has operational links with other factions particularly with the NSCN.
ULFA’s stated objective is the attainment of Swadhin Asom. It has declared its readiness to talk with the government on the condition that Swadhin Asom is on the agenda.
The outfit suffered a major setback in 2003 when Bhutan flushed them out of its territory via its Operation All Clear.
Operation All Clear
In December 2003, Operation All Clear was launched by the Royal Bhutanese Army, with the `logistical support’ of the Indian security forces. The objective was to clear southern Bhutan of camps of the ULFA, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO). Several senior ULFA, NDFB and the KLO leaders were captured and handed over to the Indian Army.
Ideological stand of ULFA
The ULFA takes its ideological stand from the Treaty of Yanbadu of 1826 which brought peace after the First Anglo-Burmese War. Treaty was signed between East India Company and King of Ava (Ava was capital of Burma from 1364-1841). As per this treaty: Assam, Manipur, Arakan, Taninthai were ceded to British. The Burmese had to cease interference in Chachar Kingdom and Jaintia Hills. Burmese agreed to pay an indemnity of one million Pounds Sterling to British. Burmese agreed to allow diplomatic representatives from British. Burmese also agreed to sign a commercial treaty in due course of time. The first among the above 5 conditions was very important, which led to Annexation of Assam into territories of British East India Company.
However, ULFA does not consider itself a secessionist organisation, because it claims that Assam was never a part of India. It says that Assam was always an independent country which defended itself from the Mughal attacks as many as 17 times. Though Assam became a British colony after the Treaty of Yandabu, yet the people of Assam launched movement against the British; which later united with the Indian freedom struggle. Hence, after the departure of the British, Assam should have been an independent country, according to ULFA.
The Government of India has classified ULFA as a terrorist organization and banned it under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 1990. The Government of India also conducted military offensives against ULFA which include the Operation Bajrang of 1990, Operation Rhino of 1991 and Operation Rhino-2 in 2000s. Till today, the anti-insurgency operations of Indian army are going on.
ULFA and Local Support
At one time, ULFA claimed itself to be an articulator of Assamese `national aspirations’. Its ideological claim has been that its armed struggle for `Swadhin Asom’ was a response to the Indian state’s colonial attitude. However, not all stakeholders of the Assam are supportive of Swadhin Asom. Political parties that accept the Constitution of India and represent the interests of Assamese people are insistent on the demand for talks.
Government of India has more than once offered to hold unconditional talks with the ULFA leaders, but their obstinacy in insisting on recognition of their sovereignty has proved to be a stumbling block. The emergence of Islamist groups of in Assam has further added to the complexity of the situation. ULFA has also links with ISI of Pakistan and GDFI of Bangladesh. It has been alleged to launch a proxy war against India.
ULFA has been most horrific terror organization with the capacity to strike at will. In recent times, it has suffered splits and desertions. Most of its top leaders are in exile. Its Vice President and General Secretary are in Prison in Guwahati and Dhaka.
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