Terrorism in Assam
The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the vanguard of national liberation struggle in Assam, was formed on 7th April 1979 to bear the historic responsibility of spearheading the armed democratic struggle with the ultimate aim of establishing an independent socialist sovereign Assam. ULFA represents, as its name implies, not only the Assamese nation but also the entire independent minded struggling peoples, irrespective of different race-tribe-caste-religion and nationality of Assam.
Assam, the most populous state in the region, has a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society. A majority of ethnic Assamese and 16 tribes constitute Assam’s indigenous population. Assam’s peripheral location in India, its resultant under-development and dramatic changes in its demography caused by an influx of Bangladeshis across the borders have triggered militancy.
The ULFA, the most formidable insurgent outfit, demands sovereignty for Assam. It was a secessionist ethnic insurgent socialist organization employing terrorist tactics. Founded on April 7, 1979, the ULFA enjoyed mass support in its initial years but gradually lost its popularity. From its inception to 1985, ULFA failed to make any real impact since the Assam Movement against “foreigners,” specifically Bengali settlers, was led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and dominated the state’s political scene. The Assam Movement formally ended on August 15, 1985 and some of its leaders formed the state government. It was then that ULFA made its presence felt and launched its mission to “liberate Assam from Delhi’s colonialism.”
In 1997 a spurt in ULFA activities led the GOI to form the Unified Command — of army, paramilitary, police and state Government. Since 1998, hundreds of ULFA members have surrendered, but hardcore militants stayed in their camps in Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh. The ULFA’s numerical strength was depleted by the attack on its Bhutan camps in December 2003 by the Royal Bhutan Army and the Indian Army. The estimated committed cadre strength was about 700 by 2005. In its initial years, government officials, businessmen, tea planters and politicians were the major targets. In recent years it has killed civilians including children as well as Hindi-speaking migrants. In 2003 ULFA killed more than 60 “outsiders,” mainly from the state of Bihar, in Assam. On August 15, 2004, India’s Independence Day, a bomb blast in Dhemaji killed an estimated 13 people, including 6 children, and injured 21. In addition, numerous bomb blasts at oil installations and other infrastructure are regularly reported.
In 2004-2005, Assamese author Indira Goswami took the initiative to work out a way to bring the GOI and the ULFA to the negotiating table. Despite the GOI’s willingness, the ULFA time and again set conditions for talks that are difficult to fulfill. The outfit insisted on the pre-condition that sovereignty should figure in the talks, a provision the GOI reportedly accepted with some reluctance in the hope that this would facilitate peace. But then the ULFA leadership insisted that those leaders of the outfit who have been arrested and detained in Assam should be released. As of July 2005, this has created a deadlock since the government cannot release insurgent leaders without formal assurance of a ceasefire and negotiations by the ULFA.
Funding for the front comes from three sources:
Extortion: The front’s main source of income comes from extortion from businessmen, politicians, government employees, industrialists and tea companies. It also indulges in bank robberies and other criminal activities to finance its activities.
Drug Trafficking: It was reported that the front was also involved in drug smuggling. As far back as 1988, one ULFA leader was caught with seven kilograms of Burmese heroin. Drug money had been used to purchase arms at the rate of 50,000 for automatic rifles, Rs.40,000 for pistols and Rs.45,000 for wireless sets.
There was no proper source for ULFA’s annual budget but according to an accomplished journalist and security analyst from Guwahati, Mr. Jaideep Saikia’s calculations, the ULFA’s budget for the year 2001 was a whooping Rs.31 crore plus.
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
It boasts the largest number of cadres. NDFB has suffered two splits. Two outfits one led by Gobinda Basumatary and other Ranjan Daimary is in talks with Government of india . The breakaway group, Songbijit faction of NDFB, which orchestrated Tuesday’s attack, is seeking a separate homeland of Bodoland carved out of Assam.
Karbi Peoples Liberation Tiger (KPLT)
The Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT), earlier known as Anti-Talks Factions of Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF-ATF) was formed at an undisclosed location on January 8, 2011. The outfit was formed with 25 cadres of KLNLF-ATF who formally rechristened itself as KPLT.
The KLNLF-ATF was a breakaway faction of the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF), which had laid down arms on February 11, 2010. KPLT has emerged as a new threat in the State. The KPLT is believed to have split towards the middle of 2011, when some of its members formed a new group, the Karbi National Protection Force (KNPF). However, not much is heard about the KNPF.
Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (Multa)
The Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) was founded sometime in the year 1996. MULTA is one among the approximately 14 Islamist terrorist outfits reportedly operating in the State of Assam. MULTA and the Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA) are also said to be part of the All Muslim United Liberation Forum of Assam (AMULFA). AMULFA was reportedly founded to coordinate the subversive activities of Islamist terrorist elements in the Northeast region of India. Though its time of founding is not known, MULFA is believed to have taken shape at the behest of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the external intelligence agency of Pakistan. The then Chief Minister (CM) of Assam, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, in his statement on the floor of the Assam Legislative Assembly on ISI activities in the State, on April 6, 2000, said MULTA and MULFA were being guided by the ISI. Mahanta further claimed that the ISI had drafted a plan to cause subversion in the State by appealing to the religious sentiments of vulnerable sections in the society, in Assam.