A special report on ULFA-HUJI link in Assam

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Guwahati, Aug 19 : Is there a link between the ULFA and Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islami (HUJI)? This question has come up with the change in the modus operandi of the Assamese militant outfit and the pattern of killings of migrant labourers and innocent Assamese.

The easy movement to and from Bangladesh and the shelter found by Bangladeshi militants in Assam and other North Eastern regions also raise suspicions of a tie up between the ULFA and HUJI.

Assam shares around 272-kilometers long border with Bangladesh. The porous border makes it easy for migrants from Bangladesh to infiltrate into the Assam, a fact that has been resisted for long by several political and other groups.

When ULFA was set up in 1980s their main focus was to raise the issue of illegal Bangladeshi migrants from Bangladesh. Today, the militant outfit does not even raise this issue.

It is suspected that there is a close nexus between the ULFA and Bangladesh-based terrorist groups providing logistical and moral support to the banned outfit across the border.

In return ULFA provides strategic knowhow and shelter to the HUJI operatives in Assam.

"After their failure in Kashmir, now HUJI and all other militant outfits are using the whole northeast as a transit camp and from Assam, from Northeast, they are moving towards other parts of the country. In Assam, they are getting citizenship and ULFA is helping them, "said Abhijit Sharma, Director, Assam Peoples' Work.

Anil Bhatt, a Northeast expert said that ULFA and HUJI's link goes back to the 1990s'.

According a recent estimate, around 1.5 crore illegal Bangladeshis are living in Assam and most of them work as low-level economic workers. The presence of HUJI in Assam has added a new twist to the situation.

According to intelligence reports and experts, the Bangladeshi fundamentalist groups use the poor Bangladeshis as sleeping cells to operate not only in Assam but in other parts of the country as well.

"Because of these illegal Bangladeshis residing over here, our small scale business has gone into their hands. All those businesses like selling vegetables and fishes, daily wage work have gone to them, because of which our youth are not getting work," said one of the local youths.

Monoj Baruah, an activist said, "This is happening for the last many years. The infiltration of Bangladeshis, has become an issue of do or die for the people of Assam."

Regardless of the tight security on the India-Bangladesh border, the collusion between ULFA and HUJI helps provide easy passage and access to the anti-India forces.

The top brass of ULFA, like Paresh Barua and Arvind Rajkhowa have found shelter in Bangladesh and they return the favour by providing support to the HUJI operatives in Assam and other parts of the country. It has been established that some of the recent blasts in different parts of the country have a HUJI connection.

"From time to time, we have seen the reports from media that Northeast is being used as a corridor. I don't know how far it is true. But from our side, we are taking all the steps to see that our borders are not used for infiltration or ex-filtration by any group," said R N. Mathur, DGP, Assam Police.

The recent killings in Assam by ULFA have a pattern. All attacks have been carried out against local Assamese or Hindi-speaking migrant labourers.

According to analysts, ULFA is targeting the Assamese under pressure from their Bangladeshi cohorts.

ULFA in recent statements has described the Hindi-speaking migrants as the real threat in Assam rather than illegal Bangladeshis who have changed the demography of at least eleven of the twenty-seven districts of Assam.

ULFA claims to represent the people of Assam, but going by its recent acts it is clear that it is out to protect its own interests. By Peter Alex Todd

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