5 Assam women who left homes to ‘join’ banned ULFA-I still missing
On Saturday, ULFA-I publicity cell member Rumel Asom sent an email to an Assamese daily accusing a few media outlets of “outburst” on the “normal” issue of few women joining it.
Days after they went missing reportedly to join the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I), police in Assam are yet to trace the whereabouts of five women including two who took part in national-level kickboxing meets.
As per missing complaints lodged by family members of the women with the police, there’s no trace of them since the past week. After a video of them trekking inside a forested area surfaced online on Friday, it has been speculated they might be on their way to Myanmar to get trained in ULFA-I camps there.
The video showed kick boxers Nayanmani Chetia of Tinsukia district, Sabita Chetia of Dhemaji district and another woman identified as Sarmistha Saikia of Lakhimpur district. The identities of the two other women in the video, said to be from Majuli and Marigaon districts, aren’t disclosed yet.
According to statements by Nayanmani’s brother to local media outlets, her husband works in Assam Police and she has a 5-6 year old son. Before disappearing, she had told family members that she’s going for a kick boxing tournament with other girls.
“Ever since reports surfaced and complaints were received about the missing women on November 11, we’ve been trying to trace their locations. But that hasn’t been possible yet. Their mobile phones are also switched off,” said Additional DGP (Special Branch) Hiren Nath.
He mentioned that it won’t be possible to comment whether the missing women have actually joined the banned outfit. Nath added that investigations are underway to verify the location of the video and when it was clicked.
“We’ve found that the missing women had a strange relationship with family members. One would disappear from home for 15-20 days at a stretch and another had very irregular timings and often used to reach home very late at night without informing family members,” said Nath.
“It’s not uncommon for young people in some areas of Assam to leave their families to join insurgent outfits. We’ve been able to catch many who were on their way to training or were being indoctrinated to join. Recently we arrested 14 such young men in Upper Assam,” he added.
On Saturday, ULFA-I publicity cell member Rumel Asom sent an email to an Assamese daily accusing a few media outlets of “outburst” on the “normal” issue of few women joining it. He accused them of speculating that one of them had joined the outfit due to romantic relations with an existing cadre.
“There’s no need for such outburst on the women joining ULFA-I. It’s very normal that some members of the public, who are attracted by the goal and ideals of our outfit, come and join us,” the email, which was published on Sunday’s Amar Asom, read.
On Sunday, ULFA-I chairman Paresh Baruah announced through a statement that the outfit had extended its ceasefire for another three months in “public interest” and it would refrain from all kinds of “military activities” during the period.
Since May this year, when the second Bharatiya Janata Party-led government assumed office in Assam, there have been speculations that ULFA-I, which seeks an independent Assam, could join peace talks with the Centre.
The outfit, has, however maintained that the issue of Assam’s sovereignty should be part of talks. Citing the Covid-19 pandemic, ULFA-I declared an unilateral ceasefire in May for three months. It was extended by another three months in August.