Police, pro-talk ULFA rebels eye recalcitrant unit

October 25th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Oct 25 (IANS) The police and the pro-peace rebels of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a frontline separatist group in northeastern India, are trying hard to bring a potent strike unit of the militant outfit to join the peace process, after two key rebel units had agreed to a ceasefire earlier this year.Opening of communication with the crack 709 battalion of the ULFA, active in western and northern Assam, is significant because the rebel group’s most potent strike unit, the 28th battalion, that held sway over eastern Assam, had agreed to a truce with the authorities in June. Only the Bravo company of the 28th battalion is outside the ceasefire purview, but is said to be keeping a low profile.

“We are in touch with certain key figures in the 709 battalion and we hope they as well as their unit will agree to a ceasefire with the authorities like us and embark on the road to evolve a peaceful solution to our problem,” said Jiten Dutta, a key commander of the pro-peace 28th battalion.

The security establishment feels that once the 709th battalion of the ULFA agrees to end hostilities and clinches a truce with the authorities, the ULFA’s fighting machine would be neutralised.

“This is possible and likely to happen because the ULFA has ceased to be a cohesive force anymore due to the recent developments, including the truce by the 28th battalion,” a security official said, requesting anonymity.

Incidentally, the commander of the ULFA’s 709 battalion, Hira Sarania, responsible for most of the violence in western Assam, bordering Bhutan and West Bengal, is said to be suffering from a serious ailment, making the security agencies believe that he would give up sooner rather than later.

Analysts feel that the ULFA’s exiled leadership will have to rethink their strategy if the 709 battalion were to join the Alpha and Charlie companies of the crack 28th battalion in their quest for peace in Assam in a democratic manner.

“The ULFA’s topmost leaders have been away from the scene of action in Assam for long and it will be very difficult for them to raise fresh battalions from scratch. They could well be forced to rethink their strategy or else they could become irrelevant to affairs at home,” said Wasbir Hussain, director of the Guwahati-based Centre for Development and Peace Studies, a think tank.

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