Nearly a decade after they were flushed out from their well-entrenched camps in southern Bhutan, the Paresh Barua-led faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) is making attempts to re-build its base in the densely-forested region, says an assessment made by the intelligence agencies.
The operation code-named 'All Clear' in 2003 had boosted India's efforts to rein in insurgency in Assam. Royal Bhutanese Army (RBA) had conducted the operation with the 'active' help from the Indian Army.
The RBA is relatively weak in this part of the Himalayan kingdom resulting in the Ulfa trying to re-enter an area it is familiar with, besides the obvious advantages of geographical contiguity of the jungles and proximity to Assam.
Till 2003, Ulfa, along with a few other insurgent groups from the northeast, had as many as 30 camps in the Samdrup Jhonkar area of southern Bhutan with provisions to house about 3,500 insurgents.
At present, there are two faction of the ULFA with Arabinda Rajkhowa leading one of the factions that is participating in negotiations with the government.
Barua leads the faction that remains steadfastly opposed to any talks with the government unless sovereignty for Assam is also on the agenda.
After Bhutan, the outfit's next stronghold was in Bangladesh under the patronage of the Khaleda Zia government that ended in 2006. The pro-India Sheikh Hasina government arrested most top ULFA leaders and handed them over to Indian authorities in 2008 with Rajhowa being one of them.
Barua controls hundreds of heavily armed fighters and shuttles between his camps in the China Myanmar border and in Myanmar's Sagaing Division. Intelligence reports speak of his close connection with the Chinese spy agencies.
"Incidentally, this area houses base camps belonging to armed fighters of at least nine other insurgent groups from Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, whose cohabitation has proved extremely beneficial for a symbiotic relationship," an official said.