Is ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah the last man standing?
After the arrest of the United Liberation Front of Asom chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa on Friday from Meghalaya’s Dowki on the Indo-Bangladesh border, Baruah seems to be the only leader sticking to his guns.
Last month, the outfit’s ‘finance secretary’ Chitrabon Hazarika and ‘foreign secretary’ Sashadhar Choudhury were arrested by the Border Security Force near the Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura. Others are either in jail, under house arrest, in custody in Bangladesh or believed to be dead.
Although security analysts in Assam are hinting that the end of Ulfa militancy is not too far away with the arrest of Paresh’s ‘second in command’ Raju Baruah aka Hitesh Kalita, Paresh asked Rajkhowa on Friday not to walk into the trap laid by the government.
“I appeal to you … (to) declare your present stand keeping in mind the sacrifice of 12,000 martyrs … as well as the people of Assam who crave for independence,” he said in an email.
Baruah also revealed that Rajkhowa, Raju Baruah and another activist Raja Gogoi had been with the security forces since December 2, and were not arrested on December 4.
But analysts said his war cry was only posturing. With Raju’s exit from the scene, Paresh, believed to be in a safe haven in Yunan province of southern China or adjoining areas of Myanmar or Thailand, will be left with no one to handle weapon deals and plan strikes.
“Raju Baruah’s arrest is a massive blow to the Ulfa’s military structure,” said a senior Special Branch officer, declining to be quoted. Paresh now has only “mercenaries” far removed from revolutionary ideology.
The only persons he can turn to are the Bhutan-based Hira Sarania, commander of the outfit’s 709 Battalion, and the Myanmar-based Bijoy Chinese, commander of 28 Battalion.
“Raju Baruah had been a key planner and virtually indispensable for Paresh Baruah and the Ulfa,” said Assam security advisor Ghanashyam Murari Srivastava, who retired as the Assam Police chief in March.