Wednesday, December 2, 2009

India should use Rajkhowa to finish ULFA

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The United Liberation Front of Assam or the ULFA suffered a major blow with the arrest of chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa in Bangladesh. Apurba Barooah, the publicity in-charge of the outfit is also said to have been nabbed. Both these leaders will now be handed over to India as Bangladeshi Prime Minister is keen on not allowing her country's soil to be used for anti-India terror activities. Hasina is returning favours to India after New Delhi was rumoured to have offered to rescue her when there was a military coup led by BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) earlier this year.

Bangladesh had shown its intent recently when it had handed over two other senior leaders Foreign Secretary Sasha Choudhury and Finance Secretary Chitraban Hazarika. Rajkhowa arrest also means that the ULFA is only left with Commander-in-Chief Paresh Baruah among its founders. Its General Secretary Anup Chetia is in the custody of Bangladesh while Vice-Chairman Pradip Gogoi and ideologue Bhimkanta Borgohain are in Indian custody. ULFA which has been fighting for a sovereign Assam for the past three decades stands at its weakest with the leadership crisis.

India has to be very careful and diplomatic while dealing with Arabinda Rajkhowa as he was known to be interested in talks with New Delhi. Rajkhowa was known to be in a rift with Paresh Baruah over the issue. Indian authorities should realise that Rajkhowa is the only person who could challenge Baruah's authority in the ULFA. Instead of making him languish in the jail as has been in the case with Pradip Gogoi and many other leaders Indian government should think about ending the Assam crisis.

In the recent years there have been enough indications that many of the militants in the ULFA ranks are interested in giving up arms. In 2008 ULFA leaders Mrinal Hazarika and Jiten Dutta of the A and C companies of ULFA declared unilateral ceasefire in order to pressurise the top brass of ULFA to sit on negotiation table with the Government of India. But the top brass of ULFA expelled the leaders upon which rift developed between Rajkhowa and Paresh Baruah.

This is now a god send opportunity for the Indian authorities to finish the armed struggle in Assam through negotiations with the outfit paving the way for its carders to lay down their arms. New Delhi along with Guwahati should make full use of this opportunity to finish the problem diplomatically as military operations haven't yielded fruitful results as terrorists use foreign territory to carry out their operations. New Delhi should also keep in mind that it is very rarely that Dhaka extends such an olive branch to India. It should act fast before there is a change of guard in Dhaka.


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