Militant Groups

Print edition : January 16, 2004
ULFA For `sovereign socialist Assam'

Mithinga Daimary, ULFA publicity secretary, outside a court in Assam's Nalbari district on December 21.-UTPAL BARUAH/REUTERS

Formation: The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was founded by Paresh Barua, along with Rajiv Raj Konwar (alias Arabinda Rajkhowa), Golap Barua, Samiran Gogoi and Bhadreshwar Gohain on April 7, 1979, in Sibsagar, Upper Assam. It was set up to establish a "sovereign socialist Assam" through an armed struggle.

Leadership: Raj Konwar is currently the Chairman. Vice-chairman Samiran Gogoi, arrested on April 8, 1998, has been in judicial custody in Guwahati ever since. General secretary Golap Barua is under detention in Dhaka after being arrested by the Bangladeshi authorities on December 21, 1997.

ULFA has clearly partitioned political and military wings. Paresh Barua commands all military operations. Most of ULFA's top leadership operated from its headquarters in Bhutan, and now continues to work from bases in Bangladesh.

Military capabilities: In 1986, ULFA first established contacts with the then-unified National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). It learnt the rudiments of insurgency tactics from the KIA, which is believed to have charged Rs.100,000 per trainee. Subsequently, links were established with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Afghan mujahideen. Reports indicate that at least 200 ULFA activists received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

ISI largesse is believed to have enabled ULFA to buy arms from Cambodia, paying for these in hard currency routed through Nepal. Apart from training ULFA personnel at camps run by Islamist groups such as the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, the ISI also introduced ULFA to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) transporters who, for a fee, undertook to transport arms from South-East Asia into Myanmar. In April 1996, Bangladesh seized more than 500 AK-47 rifles, 80 machine guns, 50 rocket launchers and 2,000 grenades from two ships off Cox's Bazaar (in Bangladesh). Four ethnic Tamils were among those arrested.

ULFA returned the ISI favour by announcing support for Pakistan during the Kargil war. It described the Pakistani intruders - primarily Pakistani Army regulars and Afghan mercenaries - as freedom fighters.

ULFA has 14-odd camps functioning in Bangladesh since 1989. The Indian government says that the ISI and the Directorate-General of Field Intelligence of Bangladesh facilitate ULFA's presence and operations in that country. After first using Bangladesh as a training ground and safe haven, ULFA gradually expanded its network there to include operational control of activities and the receipt and shipment of arms in transit before they finally entered India.

Apart from running training camps, ULFA launched several income generating projects in Bangladesh. It is believed to have set up media consultancies and soft drink manufacturing units. It is also reported to own three hotels, a medical clinic, and two motor driving schools in Dhaka. Paresh Barua is believed to own or have controlling interests in several businesses in Bangladesh, including a tannery, a chain of department stores, garment factories, travel agencies, shrimp trawlers, and transport and investment companies.

NDFB Bodoland as goal

Govinda Basumatary, NDFB general secretary, outside a Guwahati court on February 15, 2003.-RITU RAJ KONWAR

Formation: The NDFB, originally called the Bodo Security Force, was formed in 1988. It seeks to secure a sovereign Bodoland in the areas north of the Brahmaputra river, and the replacement of the Devnagri script with the Roman script for all Bodo-language texts.

Leadership: The NDFB was formed under the command of Ranjan Daimary, who also uses the alias D.R. Nabla. He continues to be its chairman. The NDFB's vice-president, Dhiren Boro, was arrested in Gangtok (Sikkim) on January 1, 2003. Its general secretary B. Swmkhwr alias Govinda Basumatary was arrested on November 25, 2002. `Lieutenant' B. Irakdao is the outfit's publicity secretary, while Nileswar Basumatary is its finance secretary.

Military capabilities: With an estimated strength of 3,500 fighters, most of whom were present in training camps in Bhutan, the NDFB operates on the northern and north-western side of the Brahmaputra river in Assam. It also uses the Manas National Park, adjoining Bhutan, as a sanctuary.

The NDFB has had close ties with ULFA and also with some officials in the Bhutanese establishment. Indian intelligence believes that NDFB correspondence with arms suppliers in South-East Asia was, on occasion, routed through Bhutanese diplomatic traffic. For most of its weapons and infrastructure, however, the NDFB depends largely on ULFA.

KLO Armed struggle for a separate Kamatapur

Joydeb Roy alias Tom Adhikari, head of the KLO's operations squad, at a police camp in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district, on December 20.-RUPAK DE CHOWDHURI /REUTERS

Formation: The origin of the KLO can be traced to the attempts of some members of the Rajbanshi community, who belonged to the All Kamatapur Students' Union, to organise an armed struggle for a separate Kamatapur State. They approached ULFA for this purpose, which agreed to train them in order to gain a foothold outside Assam. ULFA's line of thinking was that the tie-up with the KLO would not only facilitate the movement of its cadre to base camps in Bhutan, but also provide a safe haven for its injured or sick cadre.

The KLO came into existence on December 28, 1995. It aims to carve out a separate State from six districts of West Bengal and four contiguous districts of Assam.

Leadership: Tamir Das, who uses the alias Jiban Singha, is the chairman. He was arrested in October 1999. However, he regained control over the outfit after he was released by the Assam Police in a bid to make the other KLO cadres surrender. Singha was killed in December 2003 operations launched by the Royal Bhutan Army. Milton Burman alias Mihir Das is the KLO's second-in-command, and Joydeb Roy alias Tom Adhikari is the head of its `crack squad'. Both were arrested by the Bhutanese security forces during the recent operations. Bharati Das, the chairperson of the KLO's women's wing, was arrested in West Bengal on August 7, 2002. The outfit's operations chief, Suresh Roy, had surrendered on January 24, 2002. Important KLO personnel on whom the mantle of leadership could now fall include Hiten Roy, Ravi Rajbanshi, Rahul Roy and Kajal Roy.

Military capabilities: The KLO is most active in Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri, and the Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling. Apart from its close links with ULFA and the NDFB, the KLO also has a long record of aiding the Maoist groups in Nepal. The KLO is believed to have provided shelter, cover and some armed support to the Maoist groups.

According to Indian intelligence, a joint meeting of ULFA, the NDFB, and the KLO was held with members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) to work out a joint strategy for operations in the region. The discussions are believed to have focussed on the prospect of creating a compact revolutionary zone, which would allow all these groups some cross-border elbow room.

The KLO is also believed to have a working relationship with the Tiwa National Revolutionary Front (TNRF), an insurgent outfit based in the Nagaon district of Assam. Some security experts believe that the ISI has a particular interest in the KLO, since the latter helps to escalate sabotage activity along the strategically and economically vital Siliguri corridor of West Bengal.

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