United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) commander Poresh Barua has blamed politicians and bureaucrats for systematically allowing migration into Assam.
“Politicians and a lax Indian bureaucracy are allowing these aliens to become Indian nationals and settle in Assam,” Barua told HT, hinting that it could be part of a bigger plan to “make the indigenous inhabitants a minority in their own land.”
Illegal influx of people from Bangladesh occupies the socio-political mind-space in Assam. Supporting these immigrants was out of the question, Barua said.
The ULFA was known to have been soft on the issue when it operated out of Bangladesh for more than a decade before its leaders were flushed out. Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia allegedly patronised the banned outfit during her reign from 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.
However, Barua denied Dhaka giving them sanctuary as refugees. “We chose Bangladesh as a strategic place to hide and carry on our freedom struggle. Had we been refugees, our leaders would not have been put in prisons or deported from that country,” he said.
Barua was sceptical about a new government changing Assam’s fortunes. “But the state and the northeast can do a lot better with defiant leaders like Mamata Banerjee or Jayalalithaa,” he said.
On the possibility of negotiations with the government, Barua said his group would try to ‘bend over backwards’ if New Delhi was sincere about discussing Assam’s sovereignty. Refusing to talk on his involvement with the Pakistani establishment, Barua said ULFA and Maoists cannot be bedfellows since “they abide by the Indian Constitution and we reject it”.
Seeking a referendum in line with Quebec in Canada to determine peoples’ support for Assam’s independence, Barua asserted: “We would welcome one in which participants would be bonafide indigenous people of Assam.”
While the Arabinda Rajkhowa faction of the ULFA is engaged in negotiations with the Centre, Barua remains steadfast on his demand for Assam’s sovereignty. Officials say his anti-talks faction is a depleted force, but Barua claims to have hundreds of armed men in camps on China-Myanmar border.