The formation of the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW) on April 17 by four organisations is the fourth in a series of attempts by Northeastern insurgent groups to forge a united front.
An indication of the latest attempt at unity came on April 7 when the ULFA chairman Abhizit Asom in a mailed communication to HT said: “Every country has a Northeast. This Northeast is with reference to India. Our proper identity lies in being from the Western South East Asian Region.”
Interestingly, that is what the new unified organ-isation is named: United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia. The first attempt to unite was in 1986 when the United Front was set up by the United National Liberation Front (UNLF of Manipur), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) with the stated aim to send a combined team to China seeking assistance.
The effort got scuttled after the NSCN divided into two factions — one led by the Isak-Muivah duo and the other led by Khaplang.
In 1990, the United Front was renamed as the Indo-Burma Revolutionary Front with UNLF and ULFA joining hands with NSCN(K).
The third effort took place in 1994 when the NSCN(IM) joined hands with the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura to form the Self-Defence United Front of South-East Asian Himalayan Region. This effort faded away when the NSCN(IM) agreed to a ceasefire followed by talks with the government.
“The latest effort to form a combined front is a result of prodding by Chinese intelligence and agents of other Chinese business interests that facilitate gunrunning to get the groups to unite,” said a top source in the Indian security establishment.
The UNLFW is chaired by Khaplang, a Hemi Naga from Myanmar, while the group’s military wing is to be headed by ULFA’s Paresh Barua. Besides NSCN(K), the other groups are the National Democratic Front of Bodloland (Songbijit faction) and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation.