ULFA chief tries new tack

BY A correspondent| IN Media Practice | 24/12/2009
Paresh Baruah uses a page one anchor series in Amar Asom to try and rouse the Assamese masses to build a greater Assamese society, and help Bangladeshis assimilate.
His writings, assuming that they are not ghost-written, could also embody his edginess. says a CORRESPONDENT.

The proverb ?the pen is mightier than the sword? might sound clich?d. But its not everyday that one gets to read a provocative piece by a top-rung rebel leader in a newspaper. At a critical time when most of its top-rung leaders, including chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and Deputy c-in-c Raju Baruah are in police custody, the elusive self-styled commander-in-chief of the proscribed rebel outfit United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) Paresh Baruah has actually used the pen to reach out to the people of Assam.


In December this year, he has penned a sharp and perceptive three-part series in a local vernacular daily, ?Amar Asom? from an undisclosed destination. The series titled ?In which direction is the multi-hued Assamese society heading?? which appeared in the local daily is a rather scathing plea to the native of Assam to wake up to the evil designs of the ?colonial forces of India?. The heading also states that the newspaper is open to debates on the write-up by the ULFA supremo.


Baruah?s appeal seems frantic as he chides the ?so-called? Assamese society as being their own adversary and being foolish enough to fall prey to the conspiracy hatched to ?Indianise? everything from their natural resources, their language, their history as well as their geography by the ?colonial? forces. He further reprimands the so-called intellectuals of Assam who are acting as agents of the Indian forces and have remained mute spectators.


Urging the creation of a greater Assamese society, he says that the so-called caste Assamese have not allowed the other indigenous tribes and communities to assimilate with them by discriminating against them in everyday lives. This has led to these small tribes and communities demanding their own autonomy and this in turn acts as a wedge against the building of the greater Assamese society. He cites the example of the tea tribe communities as well as the Bodos who had been time and again been discouraged from merging with the so-called Assamese society, making them assert their own ethnic identity.


In a rather bold statement, he states that the so-called ?Bangladeshis? from East Pakistan have in fact been imparting education to their children in Assamese-medium schools unlike the other communities like Bengali, Marwari and Bihari who have started schools in their own languages in order to alienate themselves from the greater Assamese society. ?It?s the duty of the so-called Assamese to co-operate with them and help them in the assimilation process,? he writes.


He further feels that the imposition of the Hindi language in the schools and colleges is another attempt to further alienate the Assamese society from their roots. Calling the Assamese ignorant and callous, Baruah said that they are blindly following the divisive politics of the Indian colonial rulers. He exhorts them to learn from the other northeastern states who have cleverly used the Inner Line Permit system to keep outsiders at bay. Whereas, Assam still follows the ancient Land Regulation system formulated by the British in 1883 which gives equal rights to the encroacher as well as an indigenous person.


The border dispute between the different northeastern states is also a ploy to keep them fighting among themselves so that their real issues are not solved. He urges the small tribes and communities to cease hostilities and merge with the greater Assamese society. However, his outfit will support any community who want to be independent from Indian dominion. He sums it up as, ?The success of ULFA?s freedom struggle depends on the very existence of the Assamese society.?


This is not the first time that the ULFA supreme has turned to the pen to make himself heard. He had earlier written revolutionary poems. Believe it or not, the lines quoted below were composed by the ULFA chief and published in a vernacular weekly ?Saadin? in March this year.


?I am sure you know Mao, the leader of China?s Red Revolution.

You must also be knowing why Ho Chi Minh spent a part of his life in France?

Don?t you realize why Dalai Lama is in India?

How would you assess Che who launched the revolution in Cuba from Argentinian soil??


Citing examples of sublime revolutionary leaders from all over the world, Baruah is in a way trying to justify his alleged ?opulent life? in Bangladesh. Paresh Baruah alias Kamruj Zaman Khan has been living in Bangladesh since 1990 and is running a business empire. His other verses published at regular intervals this year articulate the angst of the oppressed.


In his new avatar, Baruah has tried to wield the pen and use it as a weapon to arouse the masses. After all, his write-ups have been published in some of the highest selling vernacular newspapers. Baruah, the founder chief of ULFA is an enigmatic figure, earlier known to be cold and detached. And his writing skills are not confined to poetry alone. He had startled everyone with his incisive editorial piece on the fall of LTTE in a local daily ? Asomiya Pratidin?.


ULFA is known for its links with the LTTE and Prabhakaran was almost a role model for them and his annihilation is undoubtedly demoralizing for the outfit. It is said that Pakistan?s ISI introduced ULFA leadership to the LTTE for tactical support. In his piece, Baruah pays his tribute to Prabhakaran and tried to assess how lack of an apt war strategy and diplomatic relations with foreign powers was responsible for the fall of a formidable outfit like the LTTE. In a key statement, he writes that the LTTE in fact had no historical right to wage a war in Sri Lanka as the Tamils are immigrants there. He then compares the rebel groups in Northeast India and assesses how they are in a better position both strategically and ideologically to wage a war against foreign powers (in this case India).


The outfit had always had a potent publicity wing and ULFA boasts of some brilliant writers and poets on its rolls. In fact, the now jailed ULFA publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary writes under the pseudonym Megan Kachari and his book of poems ?Melodies and Guns? was featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2006. But, few were aware of the latent talent of Baruah, who was of course known to sing English songs, strum the guitar and play football. According to Assam Police records, he is class tenth pass and has earlier worked as a railway porter and a labourer. The commander in chief of ULFA had once confided in litterateur Indira Goswami that he loves the revolutionary poetry of legendary poet Iqbal.


Ajit Bhuyan, Editor of Pratidin who is also a member of the People?s Consultative Group, initiating peace talks with the Centre feels that ULFA?s publicity wing has diluted over the years and their newsletter Swadhinata is now seen only on the internet. ?Earlier Paresh Baruah never reacted directly. I don?t think he is a great thinker but he is not incapable of writing either. He has had a protracted experience and he must have equipped himself with the demands of the situation. Usually people write poetry before retirement,? smiles Bhuyan.


A real-life gun-toting poet?s underlying theme is of course always nihilist. It was possibly a premeditated effort to boost the morale of his cadres specially shaken by the fall of the LTTE, which was far superior in its military acumen. His outfit too has faced many reverses, has been involved in stealth bombings and shunning direct combat and this does not reflect too well on the military prowess of the outfit. There could be other reasons. He could be trying to entice his would-be cadres inspite of all odds. But it would not be wise to underestimate Baruah. After all, he?s always been elusive and been heading the outfit for so many years.


His writings, assuming that they are not ghost-written, could also embody his edginess. It is reported that Baruah had to flee to China after the Awami League government stepped up military operations. Trepidation about the future and the disenchantment within the lower rung cadres after the ?arrest? of the outfit?s Chairman, might have motivated Baruah to test if the pen is indeed mightier.

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