Has Citizenship Bill made ULFA-I relevant again?

first_imgUnrest in Assam over the Centre’s move to clear the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, appears to have reinvigorated the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent that was seen as a spent force a few months ago.A few subversive attacks – the last one was a bomb blast that killed two Hindi-speakers at Demow in Sivasagar district on November 22 – and several youths volunteering to join the ULFA-I on social media have fuelled the theory that the popularity of the outfit has been increasing.‘Nothing unusual’But security agencies say this is nothing unusual. There has always been some “misguided” youth joining the ULFA before and after it split into the pro-talks group led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and the anti-talks faction (ULFA-I) led by military chief Paresh Baruah.“A section of the media has been glorifying the ULFA and saying it is regrouping. Young boys and girls joining the outfit are being hailed as heroes. It is similar to 1992 when there was a design to motivate the youth to join the ULFA, whose existence cannot be for the good of the nation,” Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday.“You can vote our or wipe out the BJP (for pursuing the Citizenship Bill) but this does not mean an outfit responsible for brainwashing 9,000 youth and getting them killed should be glorified,” he said.Police and intelligence agencies say at least 10 youth have joined the ULFA-I this year though some reports have put the number between 30 and 100. This happened quietly expect in the case of Pankaj Pratim Dutta, a leader of the influential All Assam Students’ Union and Karishma Mech, a 16-year-old schoolgirl who went missing. Both took to social media to say they have joined the ULFA-I to “protect the Assamese people” from being outnumbered by “Bangladeshis who would be encouraged by the Citizenship Bill to settle in Assam”.“We have no evidence that they joined the ULFA-I. Claiming to have joined an outlawed group via Facebook could be a fad. But even if they have chosen to go underground, they are not the first and possibly won’t be the last,” a senior police officer, declining to be quoted, said.Women leadersThe ULFA had a few women leaders during its heydays. They included its cultural secretary Pranati Deka, who spent years in Bangladesh before being arrested while trying to sneak into India a decade ago. In 2003, the police had arrested a 20-year-old Dwipamani Kalita, who was behind all major mortar attacks by the outfit.The ULFA-I, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for the Demow bomb blast but denied carrying out the massacre of five Bengali-speaking villagers in Tinsukia district’s Dhola on November 1.last_img

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