The Assam government has dismissed the anti-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) as a paper tiger. But unprecedented security arrangement following the outfit’s call to boycott Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in in Guwahati on Friday has suggested Paresh Barua’s fugitives are still a force to reckon with.
Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, is scheduled to attend the platinum jubilee celebration of the Assam legislative assembly, one of the three oldest in the Indian subcontinent. He will also inaugurate two new facilities for cancer patients in the state-run B Barooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati.
That the Ulfa still manages to strike fear was evident when the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) abruptly cancelled 10 trains since Wednesday evening. Angry passengers reacted by vandalising railway stations.
“We took the decision after receiving inputs and suggestions from the government. The mail and express trains have not been cancelled, though,” said NFR spokesperson SS Hajong.
The edginess was apparent elsewhere too with security forces on ‘battle ready mode’ against a ‘spent force’. But senior police officers said the arrangements were in accordance with VVIP visits.
“They (Ulfa faction led by Paresh Barua) are trying to create fear psychosis by calling a state-wide bandh and asking people to stay away from the celebrations. We are not worried,” additional director general of Assam police Khagen Sarma said.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi played down the Ulfa’s boycott call too. “They keep calling bandhs on Republic Day and Independence Day, but the people have been ignoring them in recent years,” he said, adding the government has ordered 100% attendance in government offices on Friday.
The Prime Minister was earlier scheduled to visit on April 7 – it was the day the Assam legislative assembly was established in 1937 after those of Uttar Pradesh and undivided Punjab on April 1 that year. The celebration was rescheduled as April 7 is also the Ulfa’s foundation day.
Meanwhile, a powerful IED weighing more 4kg was recovered from railway tracks at Moneswari village in western Assam’s Chirang district on Thursday.