R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, May 30 – Though the Assam Government has decided to go ahead with the peace process to bring the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to the negotiation table, no decision has yet been taken on suspension of the counter-insurgency operations.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram has authorized the State Government to go ahead with the peace process, but at the same time, he made it very clear that the counter-insurgency operations should continue and strict action should be taken against anyone found to be indulging in unlawful activities.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is of the view that there should be no let-up of the counter-insurgency operations to keep the situation under control and prevent deterioration of the overall law-and-order scene in the state. However, with the improvement of the overall situation in Assam and deterioration of the scene in some of the states hit by violence by Maoist groups, the Centre was forced to withdraw some central forces from Assam. But during a recent review of the security scenario, it was observed that the forces available with Assam now were adequate to deal with the situation considering the fact that several militant groups including the DHD (J) and the KLNLF surrendered arms in recent months to express their desire to solve the problems through talks.
The MHA has also authorised the State Government to go ahead with the political process and the Centre would extend all possible help in this regard. However, sources said that so far neither the State Government nor the Central Government nor the security agencies have not yet received any positive indication of the ULFA commander in chief Paresh Baruah softening his stand on the issue of talks with the Government. The Government also does not have definite information about his whereabouts. “It is a known fact that Paresh Baruah used to shift from Yunan province of China to Myanmar frequently. Recently, the intelligence agencies found footprints of the ULFA leader in Bangladesh but it is hard to believe that he will stay in Bangladesh for a long period under the present circumstances,” sources added.
Sources said that the threat posed by Maoists and jehadi forces was highlighted by a presentation given to the Union Home Minister by the Assam Police during his recent visit to the state. However, there has been no concrete evidence of the activities of such groups in recent times. It is a fact that the Maoists will definitely try to make inroads in Assam, but the security agencies are yet to come across any concrete evidence of Maoist activities in Assam.
Sources admitted that the threat of jehadi groups cannot be overlooked but the State Government or the Central Government or security agencies have not come across reports of movement of large number of youths of such groups in recent times. It is a fact that in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition and the communal riots in Barpeta and Bongaigaon in 1994, a number of youths of a particular community were taken to Pakistan for training by the jehadi groups including the Harkat ul Mujaheedin (HUM). But the network of the HUM in the state was smashed following the arrest of suspected agents of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in 1999 and in recent times, there has been no evidence of such movement of youths to Pakistan for training, sources admitted.
Meanwhile, on the issue of talks with the NSCN (I-M), sources said that though talks being held, there was not much progress as the Government of India had categorically ruled out the possibility of creation of Greater Nagalim. Sources said that there was not much of a chance of the talks progressing till the outfit gave up the demand for creation of Greater Nagalim. However, talks would continue and the next round of talks would be held in Kohima, sources added.