The cooperation extended to India by the Sheikh Hasina government of Bangladesh in detaining terror leaders (euphemistically called ‘insurgents’) from India’s Northeast based in that country will go a long way in decimating terrorism in this region as well as in defining a new phase of India-Bangladesh ties. Had it not been for the tacit support given to terrorists of all hues by the Khaleda Zia government, backed by Islamic fundamentalists, the likes of ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and ‘c-in-c’ Paresh Baruah would not have sustained so long, making a huge fortune out of the money extorted from the people of Assam — the very people they had set out to ‘liberate’ from Indian ‘colonial occupation’ 30 years ago, the very people who they would bomb later on on their ‘revolutionary’ mode, sparing not even schoolchildren (Dhemaji blast, August 15, 2004). Now that the ULFA chairman has been reportedly arrested, and given that the entire ULFA central committee, barring Paresh Baruah, ‘deputy c-in-c’ Raju Baruah and those missing after Operation All Clear in Bhutan in 2003, is in jail or police custody, there is no option for the outfit but to join the Indian democratic mainstream. The devoted disciples of Paresh Baruah would, however, like to continue as ‘revolutionaries’, slaughtering innocent men, women and children, to prove that they are not a spent force and that they have the capability to take on the might of the Indian nation-state. But this will only confirm their transition to criminal terrorists sold out to hostile foreign powers like the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Even otherwise, the people of Assam, except a few frontal wings of the ULFA and fake human rights groups, no longer view the outfit as an insurgent group wedded to an ideology — to them the ULFA has already proved its brand of terrorism.
The question is: What next, now that Arabinda Rajkhowa too is in the net? We hear of peace talks. There are reports of both the government and the outfit’s top leaders, minus Paresh Baruah, working on their respective stratagems for a dialogue. But dialogue on what? Sovereignty? Autonomy for Assam? A special development package for the State? Or on a process to make way for the top ULFA leadership’s political rehabilitation? While the ULFA’s demand for sovereignty for Assam is absolutely meaningless and which the government will not deliberate on in any kind of peace process with the outfit, the dialogue could be on politico-economic empowerment of the State. That is fine. But, as we have had occasion to point out in this column in the past, who the government will be talking with? This is the fundamental question. The government will be talking with a band of insurgent-turned-terrorist leaders who do not at all represent the Assamese aspiration of the day, who do not enjoy the mandate of the people of the State, who have spent the last 30 years fighting the Indian democracy, revolting against the very idea of India, insulting our Constitution, killing innocent people, depriving our children of celebrating Independence Day and Republic Day, ruining the economy of Assam and taking it back by several years. Do not the terrorists deserve any punishment? What is the precedent we are going to set for the future generation? That any fine day you can leave the mainstream for a job in the industry of terrorism and yet will be celebrated when you intend to return after having filled up your coffers with the loot extracted at gunpoint? Ponder deeply as to how meaningful this talk of talks is. The crux of the matter is that there is no Assam-India conflict in the minds of the new Assamese generation. They are all proud Indian citizens. THE SENTINEL