Sunday, December 19, 2010

ULFA Updates


Antu Chowdang and second lieutenant Pradip Chetia arrested in Bangladesh.

Further, Telegraph reports: Linky

Moreover, unconfirmed reports said that a senior Ulfa cadre — Pranjit Saikia — has been apprehended in Dhaka yesterday by personnel of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the elite anti-crime force of Bangladesh. This is the second such arrest in Bangladesh following arrest of outfit’s self-styled captain Antu Chowdang and second lieutenant Pradip Chetia in Bangladesh within this month.

Meanwhile, some points I gleaned from the Press statements and a close re-examination of the past one year of reports:
1) MHA under P. Chidambaram, Ajay Maken and G.K.Pillai has NOT been keen on letting the ULFA bigwigs go on bail. For this, the precedent has been from January 1992 when the first round of preliminary talks with a five-member ULFA delegation comprising 'general secretary' Anup Chetia and 'central committee' members Robin Neog, Kamal Bora, Siddhartha Phukan and Sabhan Saikia was held with then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in New Delhi. All the five leaders were granted safe passage to attend the meeting and then allowed to leave to convince their other top leaders for the peace talks. But the delegation led by Anup Chetia jumped parole never to return. It has only been the push of CM Tarun Gogoi that has made PC reconsider his position. So if things go awry, you know who to blame.
2) What goes on from now onwards is going to be/will be determined by the ULFA Central Committee. There are/were 15 (16 by some accounts and Ramu Mech retired) Central Committee Members: 1) Arabinda Rajkhowa, 2) Pradeep Gogoi, 3) Sashadhar Choudhury, 4) Chitrabon Hazarika, 5) Bhimkanta Buragohain, 6) Mithinga Daimary, 7) Pranati Deka, 8) Raju Barua. Most of these 8 form the Political Wing of ULFA, in contrast to the Military Wing. All of them have been/will be released on bail, and the process is ongoing as I write.
3) Of the 7 remaining, Anup Chetia is in jail in BD, while Poresh Borua and Jiban Moran complete the "living" 11. Three ULFA central committee members (Ashanta Bagh Phukan, Robin Neog and Benning Rabha) have remained untraceable since the crackdown against the insurgent outfit by the Royal Bhutan Army in 2003, while another member, Robin Handique, passed away due to kidney failure in August 2005.
4) Of the Military Wing, the most potent folks that remain outside are the five top commanders of Borua: 1) Bijoy Chinese (a) Bijoy Das, 2) Jiban Moran, 3) Drishti Rajkhowa (a) Mohan Rabha, 4) Subal Mahanta, 5) Hira Sarania. Others of interest include Nayan Medhi, Pranjal Saikia, Ujjal Gohain, Dibakar Moran. Paresh Barua is believed to be in China, while, Antu Chowdang and Drishti Rajkhowa are in Bangladesh. Hira Sarania moves between Bangladesh and India and Jiban Moran is in Myanmar.
5) Some info on the various battalions:
a) 28th Battalion is Burma-based and hence operates in Upper Assam. Two out of three companies of the 28th battalion have announced unilateral ceasefire with Mrinal Hazarika, a former commander and 14 other leaders of Charlie and Alpha companies, coming out on June 24, 2008. The Bravo Company commander is Sujit Moran (said to be in not much control these days) and overall commander of the 28th battalion is Bijoy Chinese.
b) 27th Battalion: Centered out of the hilly southern district of Karbi Anglong. Mridul Kalita, the commander in charge of the 27th battalion was killed in March 2010 near Udalgiri. The 27th Battalion is commanded by Pallab Saikia (a close aide of Poresh Borua). Another top commander is Nayan Medhi.
c) 709th Battalion: Based out of districts such as Nalbari, Baksa, Chirang and Kamrup, that share a border with Bhutan. Commanded by Hira Sarania. It is believed that Sarania is closer to Rajkhowa than Borua.
d) 109th Battalion: Active in lower Assam districts, particularly in Goalpara and Kamrup. Top commanders of this battalion include Drishti Rajkhowa, Gulit Das and Pradeep Basumatary. SATP had this to say on Sept 27, 2010: "Meanwhile, sources said that the Bangladesh Government has in its custody senior ULFA leader Drishti Rajkhowa who happens to be a close ally of the outfit’s ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Barua. Government sources indicate that Dristi Rajkhowa could be handed over to India any day now," but this has not happened so far (to the best of my knowledge).
6) While Op All Clear is clearly noted as the operation responsible for breaking the back-bone of ULFA, it was the loss of turf due to activation of the COIN grid in Arunachal Pradesh and the subsequent clashes with NSCN(IM) that further liquidated their terrain that was clearly responsible for the coming out of the Alpha and Charlie companies of the 28th battalion.
7) There have been three terrains where ULFA had taken sustenance: Bhutan, Bangladesh and Burma. While Bhutan seems to have cleansed up, there has been some regrouping in the Lower Assam districts with proximity to Bhutan. Bangladesh is a sordid tale of much delayedness. There is no reason to hope that things would be wiped clean very quickly, it is a slow lethargic process, provided BAL returns to power again. The case of Burma is a hopeless one. There had been some activity that a joint Indo-Burma action would happen in the Kachin State that borders Arunachal Pr. and Upper Assam. More than 15 terrorist groups have taken umbrage in either the Kachin State or the Sagaing Division. But the clincher is the unofficial "Wa State" (bordering China where the Kokang incident happened) with connections to the drug trade of the famed Golden Triangle that acts as a mediator to second-hand arms trade from China as well as unofficial umbrage. Kachin State is primarily a lurking area and United Wa State Army (UWSA), which is the biggest anti-junta grouping in Burma holds the key to liquidating ULFA, along with Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Plus, there are cross-border tribal affinities between the Konyak Nagas dominated by NSCN(K) and the Tangkhul Nagas represented by NSCN(IM). While the relationship between NSCN and ULFA seems to have been strained, both groups continue to use each other's resources as needed.
8) There have been an across-the-board connection to ISI(D) and the Maoists. In fact, there have been enough news reports of Poresh Borua meeting Musharaff with the meeting arranged by Begum Khaleda Zia's government, meeting Koteswara Rao (a) Kishen, seen in Yunnan, using his Bangladeshi passport to get a Chinese visa stamp under the name Kamruj Zaman Khan, etc. In fact, the former Minister Lutfozaman Babar is in jail in the 10 truck arms haul case. While the DGFI and NSI have been implicated in the hearings, there have been enough rumours that Tareque Rahman (the elder son of BKZ) played a major role in this shipment. As of now, Tareque is in London on a medical parole on a graft charge in BD. BKZ's other son Arafat Rahman Coco is absconding in Thailand, also on a medical parole. Both were released by the Caretaker government of 1/11.
9) The "People's Consultative Group" or SJA and its leader, Lachit Bordoloi, are utterly compromised. They are open-fronts of ULFA and have been seen as such by those who matter in this complex saga. They used to operate earlier under the moniker MASS.
10) And finally, there have been precedents as to why a peace deal struck with only a select few is a bad proposition. Shillong Accord is number one in this long-unending set of Exhibits. Somehow, CM Gogoi has been itching to make some progress on peace talks (with electoral motives in the back of his mind perhaps!), hence the hurry. Even if peace is struck with the Central Committee Members out now, Poresh Borua has an extensive matrix of connections to the worldwide Islamist movement and there is no reason to hope that others (BD, Pakistan or China) will want sanity to prevail in Assam. Plus, ULFA is not even a globally representative body of Assamese opinion, especially with the Bodos and Dimasas claiming their own bodies that are in different stages of truce with GoI. Even otherwise, ULFA is a compromised entity in Assamese opinion, especially with its loosening on the critical illegal immigration issue from BD and its extensive victim profile that includes children and women. As one well-informed commentator gave 2018 for a new separatist movement in Assam, I do not have great hopes for any self-sustaining peace, for which the prime exhibit would be Mizoram.

Let the Games begin!

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At December 24, 2010 at 2:53 AM , Anonymous Mike said...

I have been following you site for quite some time. It is by far the most informative on the various insurgencies taking place in the Indian Sub-continent.

On this present post, could you clarify what is meant when 2018 is given as the time-line for a new separatist movement. What are the reasons, and clarification on the same will be appreciated.



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