For the first time in the history of the United Liberation Front of Asom, someone as authoritative as its chairman, Arabinda Rajkhowa, admitted on Friday that it had been backed by Pakistani fundamentalists. And that, he said, led to Ulfa's alienation from the people.
Chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Arabinda Rajkhowa, center, talks to the media outside the Central Jail after his release, in Guwahati, India.
Rajkhowa, 57, who is in the Capital now, leading an Ulfa team for peace talks with the Centre, told HT in an exclusive interview that the Pakistani elements - a fundamentalist strand within the state establishment - started supplying weapons to the rebels from 1990.
"Our secular ideology took a hit and we started depending more on them."
"Ulfa took to arms because a democratic space was absent. The Assamese were losing their political rights in their own homeland even as illegal immigration continued unabated encouraged by powers that be. But all this while, we knew that a military solution was not possible."
He said sophisticated weapons were being brought in ships to Bangladesh and then transported inland in trucks.
"One big consignment was caught in Chittagong, many ships were captured and in one case an entire shipload of arms was dumped into the sea to evade seizure. But many made it through."
"Ironically, the seized weapons are being used by the elite Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh (RAB) now, the same force that nabbed me," Rajkhowa said.
Rajkhowa was arrested by the RAB on November 30, 2009 and later handed over to the Indian security agencies.
Claiming that the close ties with the Pakistani fundamentalists led to "a rot within the organisation", he said, "Many deals were taking place without the knowledge of the Ulfa central committee."
"There were severe misunderstandings, emanating from commercial transactions in weapons procurement. It also led to mistrust with like-minded groups in Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura, as the Ulfa was the chief procurer of weapons," he said.
The Ulfa chief also claimed that the main force behind the Ulfa making an impact in the international fora was Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor.
"We went to the United Nations in '95, '96, and '98 and garnered a lot of support in Geneva."