Victims of violence have reminded the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) of its killer tag after its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa hinted at turning the outfit into a political entity.
Soon after his release on bail on New Year’s Day, Rajkhowa said the Ulfa has realized its armed struggle for 30 years has been futile. “If we don’t reach an honourable solution, we will go to the people and ask if we should return to the ways of the gun or be in politics,” he said at Sivasagar in eastern Assam.
The people – those who endured Ulfa’s subversion besides intellectuals – have already spoken.
“The euphoria around Rajkhowa trivializes the loss and pain of the survivors of Ulfa’s mindless violence,” said Assamese author and ideologue Homen Borgohain. “Should we forget the Dhemaji incident so soon?”
An improvised explosive device detonated by the Ulfa killed 13, mostly schoolchildren, in Dhemaji town on 15 August 2004. The children were gathered for the Independence Day celebration.
“I saw my two daughters Rupa (14) and Aruna (10) ripped apart. That act by Ulfa was nothing but barbaric,” said Dipen Saikia of Dhemaji town, 462 km northeast of Guwahati.
Organizations closer to Rajkhowa’s hometown Lakwa (Sivasagar district) have also sought explanation for the outfit’s killings. One of these is the All Assam Tai-Ahom Students’ Union, catering to a community the Ulfa chairman belongs to.
“We will boycott all Ulfa-organized functions until it explains why it killed our founder-member Dimbeswar Gogoi on 3 November 1989. We cannot figure out why people, whose hands are dipped in the blood of innocents, are being accorded heroes’ welcome,” said the union’s president Pranjal Rajkonwar.
The Ulfa will have to contend with the killer tag, said Noni Gopal Mahanta of Gauhati University’s Institute of Conflict Studies. “But there’s nothing wrong if it decides to take the electoral route. The outfit’s leaders will probably have to align with established parties, as floating political parties won’t be easy. We do have precedents; the Mizo National Front that transformed from a rebel group to a political party to rule Mizoram with a fair degree of success,” he told HT.