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Letters from India
Burma on Radar as New Delhi Prepares
for Talks with ULFA

By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) is a separatist group from Assam in North-East India. ULFA aimes to set up a sovereign Assam through an armed struggle in the Assam Conflict.

The military ruled Burma (Myanmar) emerges as an important actor on the projected peace talks between the Union government of India and the banned militant group, United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). An active and influential underground outfit of Northeast India, the ULFA is fighting New Delhi for its core demand of sovereignty for Assam (out of India). The three decades old armed outfit is understood to be responsible for the killing of thousands of people in the State.

The militant outfit reportedly runs few training camps inside the jungles of northern Burma. The cadres of ULFA are using those hideouts, mostly in Sagaing division and Kachin province of Burma, for many years. New Delhi is worried about the hideouts, which have been used by many Northeast militants, and pursuing the military government in Rangoon (now Nay Pie Taw) to take actions against those militants.

However the Burmese junta is yet to initiate for an affective approach to the problem, though they had not hesitated to play tricks with the Indian government for their selfish interest time to time.

New Delhi still believes that ULFA’s military chief Paresh Barua is hiding some where in Burma-China border. The notorious militant leader, as the Indian security agency claims, had recently left Bangladesh for hiding in Burma. Barua might had come to know about the change of Dhaka’s heart towards New Delhi that finally resulted in deporting some top ULFA leaders to India (from Bangladesh) recently.

Meanwhile, in response to the voices of local people, the Assam government is tying to create a peaceful ambience. Recently Dispur played an important role in the release of two top ULFA leaders.

Following the government’s submissions at the designated TADA court in Guwahati on February 16 that Dispur had no objection if ULFA vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi and publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary were given bail, both were granted the same on February 23 last. The court only directed them not to leave Guwahati without prior
information and asked them to report to local police stations if they had to leave for their home towns.

Though received bails together, Pradip Gogoi could not complete few follow-up procedures that delayed his release. Of course, Mithinga Daimary came out from the Guwahati jail on February 25. Daimary, 43, served jail terms since he was arrested (and subsequently handed over to Indian authority) during the Bhutan operation in December 2003.

Talking to media persons in Guwahati soon after his release, Daimary, whose real name is Dipak Das expressed his gratitude to the government for his release. Commenting it was a ‘positive response from the governments’, Daimary however maintained that other senior ULFA leaders should also be released for the proposed talks.

Daimary, also a poet with the nick name of Megan Kachari, went to his residence in Barama of Nalbari district. The ULFA leader was emotional while saying that he was ‘returning with an empty hand to an empty home’. Mentionable that Daimary’s mother, elder brother, pregnant sister-in-law, younger sister were killed by unidentified gunmen a decade back.

Pradip Gogoi was finally released from the same jail on March 4. One of the founder-members of ULFA, Gogoi was arrested in 1992 from Kolkata and he had since been behind bars. Talking to media persons at his home in Baksu Mauthgaon of Sibsagar district, Gogoi demanded for the release of all jailed leaders to pursue the peace process.

He even claimed that ULFA’s commander-in-chief Paresh Barua would ‘come for talks if the government creates the right atmosphere for the exercise’. Elaborating about the right atmosphere, Gogoi argued that the government should initiate for the release of all jailed ULFA leaders and also lobby for bringing back ULFA’s general secretary Anup Chetia, who is serving jail term in the Bangladesh capital city Dhaka for many years.

Amazingly, the Guwahati Jail is now home to almost all top leaders except self-syled commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and general secretary Anup Chetia. Those in Guwahati jail include ULFA political adviser Bhimakanta Buragohain (recently shifted from Tezpur to Guwahati), chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, foreign secretary Shasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka and deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua.

During a recent media conversation, while on way to his routine health check up, the ULFA chief Rajkhowa acknowledged his interest for dialogue with the government. He reiterated that the ULFA was keen to solve the long standing conflict situation in Assam. Answering to queries of media persons, Rajkhowa also assured that the outfit would keep the people of Assam into confidence and let them know about any developments in the process.

The local media remains speculative but positive about the talks. Similarly, various socio-political and advocacy groups of the State came out with their official statements that they want the peace as early as possible. They are unanimous that the common people can not afford the insurgency turned terrorism for decades. Rather they want development and prosperity in a peaceful ambience.

During his recent visit to Northeast, the Indian Union home secretary GK Pillai expressed hope that ULFA leaders would attend the talks. He even clarified that New Delhi would not insist on a formal letter from the outfit expressing its eagerness for discussion.

Mentionable that, the issue of a formal letter from the ULFA leaders remained a major hurdle for the talks between the government and the underground outfit. The Indian Union home minister P Chidambaram had earlier asked for such a letter and the Assam chief minister supported him.

Talking about Paresh Barua, the home secretary Pillai disclosed that he was plying somewhere along the Kachin-China border. He also confirmed that New Delhi had reiterated its request to the Burmese junta to flush out the Northeastern militants from their soil. He expected that Burma would soon launch the operation against the militants.

But the Indian government made it clear that it would go for talks with the militant outfit even without the presence of hard-liner Paresh Barua.

New Delhi maintains that it would continue its effort to bring all the left out ULFA leaders to the negotiation table, who want to talk to the government under the parameters of Indian constitution, in the coming days.

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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at






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