Stop crackdown: Indian insurgents

New Delhi, Dec 11 (bdnews24.com) – The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has appealed to Awami League government to stop its ongoing crackdown against the insurgent organisations of northeastern India.
“A party like the Awami League, which fought for Bangladesh’s freedom, should try and understand our passion for independence.
“We are fighting against Indian colonialism much the same way they fought against colonialism of Pakistan,” the ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Barua said in a statement e-mailed to bdnews24.com.
Four other insurgent outfits of the troubled region–the outlawed Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF)–have also echoed the ULFA.
“We know that the spirit of freedom has always prevailed, even against the strongest power on earth.
“And we believe that in the spirit of freedom the people of Bangladesh will have sympathy and support for our liberation struggle transcending their government’s contrary policies,” they said in the joint statement with ULFA.
The ULFA has been pursuing an armed struggle since 1979 with the professed objective of liberating the hydrocarbon-rich northeastern Indian state of Assam from what they term as New Delhi’s ‘colonial rule’. Thousands have died during its insurgent campaign.
Barua heads the armed wing of the outlawed organisation. The NDFB too is fighting for an independent homeland for two million Bodos, who live in parts of western Assam and are among the early settlers of the state.
The MPLF is a conglomeration of three secessionist rebel organisations of another northeastern Indian state Manipur.
The NLFT and ATTF are also fighting against the Indian government with the objective of liberating Tripura from colonial rule of India.
“The people of northeast India wholeheartedly supported the Bangladesh liberation war, so why should Bangladesh not support our struggle,” Barua said in the communiqué from an undisclosed location.
The ULFA military chief’s appeal to the AL government came a week after New Delhi announced the arrest of the outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa by the Border Security Force (BSF) near the India-Bangladesh border at Dawki in northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya.
Raju Barua, the deputy commander-in-chief of ULFA’s armed wing, was also arrested along with Rajkhowa on Dec 4 last
Sources in the Indian government’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), however, had said that Rajkhowa had been picked up from somewhere in Bangladesh and was unofficially handed over to the BSF.
Dhaka has categorically denied that Rajkhowa was detained in Bangladesh.
But Rajkhowa, himself, indicated that he had been arrested in Bangladesh. “Bangladesh has betrayed us (ULFA),” he had told journalists when produced in a court in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, on Dec 5.
The five insurgent outfits in their joint statement said that the “arrest and hand-over” of Rajkhowa and other leaders of ULFA by the Bangladesh government had deeply hurt the sentiments of the peoples Assam, Manipur and Tripura, who had contributed in no small way to the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.
“It may be recalled that our region served the much needed rear base of the Bangladesh liberation war. The peoples of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura provided generous shelters to hundreds of thousands of freedom fighters of Bangladesh.
“And now our Region provides shelter for livelihood to hundreds of thousands of migrant Bangladeshis,” the proscribed organisations stated.
“It is, therefore, only natural that the peoples of our region now engaged in liberation struggles feel betrayed in their hour of need by this act of the Bangladesh government.”
The ULFA military chief Barua also strenuously denied Indian media reports that his organisation was aplnning to launch attacks in Bangladesh to avenge the handover of Rajkhowa and other leaders.
“We are not waging war against any other country, we are only fighting India, but we appeal to Dhaka not to fall prey to Indian colonialism,” he said.
India and Bangladesh have not yet inked any bilateral extradition treaty. Delhi has also long been conveying to Dhaka its concern over Indian insurgents and terrorists having bases in Bangladesh.
But some sources have suggested that Dhaka has recently accepted Delhi’s proposal for a tacit understanding to track down and catch the fugitives of India illegally taking shelter in Bangladesh.
Last month two ULFA leaders – its ‘finance secretary’ Chitrabon Hazarika and ‘foreign secretary’ Shashadhar Choudhury – were arrested by the BSF near the Indo-Bangla border in Tripura.
The ULFA alleged at the time too that Hazarika and Choudhury had in fact been picked up by some unidentified men from a residential area in Dhaka and later handed over to the BSF.
After the detention of the ULFA chairman and others, its military wing chief Barua is the only top leader of the outfit who is still absconding. Indian intelligence officials believe that Barua too was based in Dhaka, at least till recently.
In March 2008, two men Mohammed Hafijur Rehman and Din Mohammed, both prime accused in the Chittagong arms haul case, had confessed in the court that the 10 truck-loads of weapons and ammunition that was seized in 2004 had in fact been meant for the ULFA.
Rehman also revealed that Barua, himself, had supervised the arms-smuggling operation.
It is not clear now if Barua is still in Bangladesh or has fled to any other neighbouring country in the wake of the crackdown by Dhaka on Indian insurgents and terrorists.
Amid speculation of a peace-process between the government of India and ULFA, Barua said if India was a people’s democracy, it should allow the “voice of the people of Assam to be heard.”
“Negotiations must be free and unfettered. Or else, India should hold a referendum or a plebiscite and let the people of Assam express themselves freely. If they say they want to be part of India, so be it.
“We will accept the people’s verdict but the conduct of the plebiscite should be free and fair and nobody should try to influence it,” said Barua.

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