The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) led by Paresh Barua, suffered another setback when a Bangladesh court sentenced Barua to death besides 13 other people, for illegal possession and smuggling of weapons in the Chittagong arms hauls case of April 2004.
The ULFA (I) is already mired with internal problems which led to the execution of at least six of its cadres including a senior leader Partha Gogoi in the last couple of weeks.
“It is a definite setback for the outfit that has beset by desertions and eroding public support in bastions like Sivasagar. As things stand, the judgement has the implication that Barua won’t be able to enter Bangladesh officially nor move around freely,” a security official told HT.
“Barua had been eyeing a rebuilding of the ULFA network in Bangladesh but this court ruling has put that aim to end. So ULFA maneuverability stand constrained,” the official added.
“At the same time, there is a danger of Barua moving closer to the Chinese,” the official added. The ULFA leader crisscrosses across camps located close to the Myanmar-China border with hundreds of his heavily-armed fighters.
Bangladesh police documents assessed by HT reveal an intricate plot in 2004 to smuggle in 1,500 boxes in ten trucks which included about 4000 assault rifles, sub-machine guns and pistols, 150 rocket launchers, 900 rockets, 2,000 grenade-launching tubes, nearly 25,000 grenades and about 11,50,000 bullets.
What also made the case riveting was the international linkage. The arms were meant for the ULFA in India, the funds were procured from Pakistan, the weapons were made by Chinese company NORINCO while they were to be transported to India’s northeast through Bangladesh.
From 1989 to 2010, the ULFA had raised a sturdy network of training camps, safe houses and other logistics in Bangladesh while Indian intelligence agencies had also reported about huge business investments in sector like media, real estate and shipping.
After a flushout of the top leadership and the consequent handling over of the arrested leaders to the Indian security agencies by the Bangladeshi police, only a few cadres had stayed back in Bangladesh, mainly in the Chittagong hill tracts.