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Is Paresh Baruah planning assault with rebel allies from NE?


wasbir hussain
DIRECTOR, Centre for Development and Peace Studies

On August 5, Friday, as leaders of the pro-talk ULFA faction headed by Arabinda Rajkhowa were meeting Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram in Delhi to submit their charter of demands, Paresh Baruah, the leader of the rebel faction opposed to talks, was busy convening a ‘prayer meeting’ at his base in Myanmar, seeking divine intervention for a speedy recovery of two of Assam’s iconic figures---music maestro Bhupen Hazarika and celebrated writer Indira Goswami. Well, who told me that? No prizes for guessing---an e-mailed press statement issued by the Paresh Baruah camp made this seemingly innocent statement that said the ‘prayer meeting’ held at the ULFA’s ‘military council headquarters’ was chaired by NSCN-K chairman S.S. Khaplang. The statement went on to add that leaders of several other rebel outfits from the North-east, including those from PLA, UNLF and PREPAK were present at the ‘prayer meeting.’ The media here may or may not have found anything extraordinary in the statement and reported as it is, in a plain and simple manner.

But Paresh Baruah, wanted both by India and Bangladesh, is no simple man. In a very subtle manner, he has managed to convey to all those watching his moves that he was not sitting idle wherever he was. On this occasion, the elusive Baruah perhaps sought to indicate that he has the support of all the frontline separatist groups from the region like the NSCN-K, PLA, UNLF, PREPAK and others. That these rebel leaders were present at the ‘prayer meeting’ convened by Paresh Baruah could go to indicate their solidarity with the ULFA hardliner. At a time when his former comrades led by Rajkhowa were hogging the limelight for coming up with a wish list and drawing flak for presenting a set of ‘unclear and weak demands’, would Paresh Baruah have ended the day with just a ‘prayer meeting’? Could he have actually initiated steps to revamp the strategic alliance that existed between the ULFA and the other North-east insurgent groups? It is more than possible that Paresh Baruah has already worked out a mechanism to work together with the rebel groups from the region, all of whom have bases in Myanmar, and will be engaged in demonstrating his strike potential in the days ahead.

If this sounds theoretical, facts on the ground do indicate that Paresh Baruah is already on a mission to strike terror in Assam. According to credible intelligence inputs, Baruah has dispatched a 17 to 20 member hit-squad comprising his own cadres as well as at least six trained gunners belonging to the Manipuri outfit, KYKL (Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup), to try and strike at specific targets in the run up to Independence Day. The Assam Police is apparently aware of the entry of these rebels in the districts of Sivasagar and Tinsukia and are keeping a close watch on the rebel activities in the area. If these intelligence reports are true, it would mean that the anti-talk ULFA faction has roped in cadres of other insurgent outfits because of a depletion in strength of their own trained fighters who have since joined the peace bandwagon. This may mean that Paresh Baruah could have engaged mercenaries, possibly on payment, and this is a dangerous developmentif it turns out to be true.

The intelligence inputs also talk about the weapons being carried by the ULFA hit-squad sent in by Paresh Baruah. It says these rebels are carrying T-81 Rifles, grenades and remote controlled IEDs. Now, the Type 81 rifles are assault rifles which are an improved variant of the AK series rifles and are closer to the American M-16 rifles. T-81 rifles are in use by security forces in China, Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh, among other nations. What is important to note is the fact that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is currently in the process of upgrading to something called the T-95 rifles. Does this then mean that the Chinese could be trying to dump the T-81 rifles, selling them cheap to various buyers, including rebel groups from India’s North-east?

The bottom line is that insurgency in Assam is far from being over and peace facilitators as well as Government-appointed peace interlocuters have just no reason to be euphoric now that the Rajkhowa group has formally joined the negotiation process, submitting a peace ‘framework’ that is not too difficult for New Delhi to handle.

(Courtesy: The Sentinel)