A sense of betrayal and bitterness coupled with continued focus on the goal and a search to achieve it, could perhaps sum up the emotions in the novel penned by a former hardcore ULFA militant.
The writer, Raktim Sharma, was a 'junior commissioned officer' of the 'central organisational cell' of the proscribed outfit when its cadres were flushed out of Bhutan by the Royal Bhutan Army in December 2004. He is the second one from ULFA to have written a book.
The book, titled Boranga Ngang, which means 'Song of the Jungle' in Bhutanese, is based on his experiences during the Operation All Clear, which was believed to have been a major set back for ULFA.
Another known figure of the outfit, 'publicity secretary' Mithinga Daimary, had his collection of poems released at the Frankfurt book fair recently. Daimary, who writes under the name Megon Kachari, is currently behind bars after being captured during Operation All Clear.
Talking about his book, which is set for a December release, Sharma said, "My attempt is to present the picture of ULFA cadres during the operation and how we strived to survive, with many of our colleagues dieing before our eyes."
Sharma had joined the outfit in 1996 and had been in Bhutan till 2004, when he returned to the mainstream. A well-educated youth, he had undergone guerrilla training in Bhutan and was in contact with the top leaders of ULFA.
Asked about adopting the path of violence, he said, "People will rise against the powers that try to exploit them."
|Mithinga Daimary (R) writes poetry under the nom de plume Megon Kachari|
On his flight from Bhutan, which forms the subject of the book, Sharma said, "We encountered many hardships. Our group went without food for ten days at a stretch. We suffered from malaria and spine-chilling cold. Of the 15 of us, we were left with only eight after a single night's encounter with Bhutan's Army."
He further said his prolonged illness forced him to surrender.
Sharma also endeavours to answer the reason why the Bhutan monarchy chose to 'betray' ULFA after having being a faithful partner for years in his book.
He said, "The Bhutan King was exploiting his people. There was a growing frustration and urge for change among the citizens. He probably feared ULFA would support the people in an uprising against the leadership."
"However, such fears were totally misplaced. ULFA was in a political pact with Bhutan and Asom enjoyed historical bonds with the country, because of which it was chosen as a shelter in the fight against India," he added.
He also fondly recalled their congenial ties with the Bhutanese. "When the King tried to impose an economic blockade on ULFA just before the operation, the people clandestinely provided us with supplies," he said.
Perhaps it was this growing proximity between the militants, for whom arms and ammunition were never in short supply, that was the main reason that fuelled the anxiety of the Bhutan King.
Moreover, the growing influence of the Maoists in Nepal, which was finding a way to Bhutan, through India, among its majority Nepali population also triggered panic in the Bhutan's leadership, he said.
The former militant recounted the days prior to the operation in great detail, with a tinge of betrayal and sorrow in his eyes.
He said, "Just a month before the Operation, the King and ULFA leaders had met at Thimpu. The King had asked us to relocate our camps and send away cadres from Bhutan for the time being. After which most cadres left Bhutan and we started downsizing our camps.
He said a Major of the Royal Bhutan Army had come to the central headquarters, where the writer was also staying, a day before the launch of the Operation to inform that the King would be visiting the next day.
He said, "Women in the camp baked pithas and we all waited for the visit of the monarch, he had come on five occasions during my stay. We first heard gun shots, which we took for a gun salute for the King. Then mortar shells landed in the compound."
"The King never came, in his place came his army," he added.
He said, "It was then we realised that the Thimpu meeting was to deceive us," he said.
Sharma's book captures the pain of betrayal of the hundreds of ULFA cadres and their families in Bhutan, who had chosen a hard life for what they perceived was a greater cause of 'freedom' for motherland Asom.
His book also portrays the fire in the youths to work for their motherland as well as the negative vibes in these cadres. "If tales of Che Guevara can inspire millions world over, why should not the sacrifices of the ULFA cadres also reach a wider audience?" he queried, on being asked the reason for writing a novel on his experiences.
He wishes to portray the cadres as not just bunch of 'gun loving misguided youth', but 'people driven by a vision'. He, however, leaves it to the readers to decide the correctness or faults in the path they had chosen.
After having forsaken a life of violence, Mr Sharma still has a vision for a homeland, where all have equal opportunities. "Revolution is not necessarily carried out by arms, there can be other means to it," he said.