Friday, February 11, 2011

Will Assam's civil society forget and forgive ULFA

Assam has suffered enough. The long armed conflict has resulted in agony for the battered people. ULFA was floated in 1979.
The month of April is generally bright in Assam. April 7, 1979 was
also a bright sunny afternoon. A group of young men had gathered to
discuss the state of affairs at Sibsagar’s famous Rang Ghar, an amphi
theatre constructed by the Ahoms over three centuries back. Among
others who had attended the conclave in that otherwise historical
township of the region included a former freedom fighter’s son –
Aurobindo Rajkhowa alias Rajiv Konwar. Rajkhowa was to later become
the chairman of the outfit floated that day called “United Liberation
Front of Asom (ULFA)”. According to the ideological line circulated
those days, ULFA represented an “expression of opposition” to the
age-old exploitation and oppression. Contrary to what is often made to
understand, the ULFA is not an offshoot of the All Assam Students
Union (AASU). Many of the ULFA leaders owed allegiance to “Chhatra
Parishad”, a radical leftist students’ body who had found themselves
sidelined in the entire gamut of Assam movement as AASU stole most of
the limelight.
ULFA has undergone severe change of image from time to time.
In fact, on April 7, 1979 meeting itself among others
Aurobindo Rajkhowa reportedly said that the students’ (read AASU)
agitation programme would not serve any purpose to Assamese interests.
They talked about “swadhin (independent)” Assam and one of them coined
the phrase --- Joi Aai Assam (Long live My Motherland Assam).
Secessionism was born.
In 1989-90, when AGP government in the state was lost amid internal problems and deep corruption, ULFA struck. The Robinhood image that ULFA had acquired through “social services” and some other populism means was lost after the outfit indulged in large-scale extortion, mayhem and murder plunging the state in to an atmosphere of all pervading fear and insecurity.
The ULFA slowly created long time terror in the state, disrupting
communications and hitting various economic targets, abducting
prominent businessmen for ransom and killing civilians and police and
government officials.
Now, the big question is whether the civil society in Assam will forget and forgive ULFA for all their mistakes and possible sins to use a strong word.
Well, there is a pinhole of hope as ULFA's foreign secretary and now the chief spokesman for the outfit, Shashadhar Choudhury, has said it well - "past is past..... we have to be pragmatic".

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