New Delhi, July 26 : The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has arrived at an agreement with the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HUJI) to operate jointly in Assam.
According to informed sources, the ULFA leadership, which has taken refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, has taken this step to keep their local benefactors happy. Sources said it has agreed to provide logistical support to HUJI cadres for it to effectively target civilians and other "manned" installations in Assam.
The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-B) was established in 1992, reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).
The outfit's activities, however, were first noticed in June 1996 after the Awami League (AL) came to power. It was subsequently proscribed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led coalition Government on October 17, 2005.
The HuJI-B is led by Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid. Imtiaz Quddus is the general secretary of the outfit. The outfit's operations commander, Mufti Abdul Hannan has been under arrest since October 1, 2005.
According to informed sources, this reported pact is being seen as a godsend for the ULFA, whose credibility with the masses in Assam and in neighbouring areas, has all but vanished. Once regarded as the saviour of the Assamese people for championing the cause of establishing a sovereign Assam through an armed struggle, the ULFA today stands exposed as a terrorist grouping.
Experts are of the view that this rebel outfit is running out of ideas to motivate its cadres - established and new, and therefore, it is desperate to remain relevant. The ULFA leadership has arrived at this understanding with the HUJI-B with the objective of spreading a reign of terror in Assam.
The HuJI-B has been for waging war and killing progressive intellectuals and draws its inspiration from Osama bin Laden and the erstwhile Taliban regime of Afghanistan.
At one point of time, the group issued a slogan - "Amra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan" ("We will all become Taliban and we will turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan").
HuJI-B recruits follow a radical form of Islam. Their principal area of activity is in the coastal area stretching from Chittagong south through Cox's Bazaar to the Myanmarese border. It has indulged regularly in acts of piracy, smuggling and arms running.
The group reportedly maintains six camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong, where its cadres are trained in the use of weapons. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that it maintains six training camps near Cox's Bazaar. On the other hand, the ULFA considers itself a "revolutionary political organization" engaged in a "liberation struggle" against India for the establishment of a sovereign, independent Assam.
It does not consider itself a secessionist organization, as it claims that Assam was never a part of India. It claims that the Assamese are confronting the problem of national identity, and therefore, it seeks to represent "independent minded struggling peoples" irrespective of race, tribe, caste, religion and nationality.
The Government of India (GOI), however, has classified it as a terrorist organization and banned it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 1990.
The latest development from the Central Government's point of view is that it has decided to keep the plea of the Dima Halao Daogah (Jewel) (DHD-J) insurgents, which has its pockets of influence in Assam's Karbi Anglong District (bordering Nagaland), for ceasefire pact, pending, but decided to intensify its armed operations against the ULFA.
The Home Ministry took this decision on Thursday (July 24) after a review meeting with top officers of the State Government and paramilitary forces.
Joint Secretary (North East) Navin Verma, State Chief Secretary P.C.Sarma, DGP R.N.Mathur and IGP (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma, besides DG, CRPF and additional DG, Border Security Force (BSF) and senior Army officials, attended the meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta.
The meeting primarily reviewed the deployment of the forces in the trouble-torn North Cachar Hills, where a number of projects including the mega Lumding-Silchar Gauge Conversion Project have come to a grinding halt following endless bouts of killings in the district.
Since May, at least 27 persons, mostly belonging to railways, were killed.
The stalling of the project work and train services in North Cachar Hill, where work on East-West Corridor is also going on, has led to a storm of protests from the neighbouring States of Mizoram and Tripura, which were faced with crisis of essential commodities.
The meeting also assessed the situation arising out of the unilateral declaration of ceasefire by the 28th battalion of the ULFA. The violence in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District area was viewed with concern and effective measures to deal with this were discussed, sources said.
The Centre and the State have reportedly agreed to wait and watch the situation for the moment, as the Government already has a ceasefire pact with a rival faction of the DHD.
The cadres belonging to the 28th battalion have since moved to the designated camps, though the government is yet to come out with a set of guidelines.
Sources said the review meeting decided to intensify operations against the ULFA in coming days. In this connection, the Army gave its inputs and Centre has now given the green signal to resume operations against the outfit, sources said. By Ashok DixitANI)