|ULFA chairman does not deny links with Bangladesh, Pak and Chinese intelligence agencies
|Updated on : 10-04-2013 | By Frontier
ULFA Chairman Dr. Abhijit Asom, in his first ever telephonic interview to Frontier TV's Editor-in-Chief Manoranjana Sinh, has reiterated that talks with India are possibly only if the government of India is open for a discussion on the "sovereign Assam issue". Dr. Asom has remarked that ULFA will continue its struggle to free Assam from the clutches of India. He is of the opinion that successive Indian governments have meted out step-motherly treatment to the people of the northeast at large and to the people of Assam in particular. Dr. Asom are opposed to the forceful occupation of the state of Assam using Indian military forces.
He did not deny that ULFA had links with the Pakistan, Bangladesh and Chinese intelligence authorities and was in fact using their links to create tension, turmoil and terror on the soil of Assam. "These are friendly nations as far as we are concerned. They may be enemy nations for India, but we are not Indians and our concern is not India. We are working in the interest of Assam, not India," he said.
Speaking exclusively on its 34th Raising Day, the ULFA chairman has set three pre-conditions on which ULFA is willing to hold talks: - (i) that the negotiations will be held on third country soil (ii) that the talks will be under the auspices of the United Nations (iii) and that these discussions with the government of India must include their demand for sovereignty.
In a surprise statement, Dr. Asom also said that the formation of another PCG like civil body group was a possible solution to mediate with the government of India on their behalf and bring the Indian authorities on the negotiating table, if they are agreeable to the three pre-conditions.
Below are the excerpts of the interview:
Manoranjana Sinh: Hello, Dr. Abhijit Asom. We welcome you to Frontier TV. It is a privilege to have you on our TV for the first time.
Dr. Abhijit Asom: First of all, this phone call is to let the people of Assam to give our thanks and congratulations and to thank them for making this day successful for us. Today as you know is the 34th year of the existence of our organisation. And another round of thanks goes to you for giving us this opportunity to reach out to the people of Assam and to the people of India through your channel Frontier TV.
Manoranjana Sinh: After 34 years of existence today on the 7th of April.your organisation has seen many changes.you have made many resolutions before.and many perhaps that you are going to make today. How sacred is this day for you and what is your resolution today?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: As you know the way we celebrate the birthdays of our children.perhaps, and we say that next year will be better and more progressive, more successful for our children, doing better in life. Similarly, on this foundation day.we confirm our commitment for the independence of Assam and developing a progressive Assam with a successful country in the international arena.
Manoranjana Sinh: Dr. Asom, your erstwhile Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa left the organisation presumably to restore peace to Assam. Two questions arise on a significant day like today. First, how has this impacted your organisation ? Second, what is the positive impact that the negotiations with the government of India can possibly bring to the people of Assam?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: First of all, the impact on the organisation (of Arabinda Rajkhowa's exit) was that I had to step in to fill in the void created by the previous gentleman, who had decided to quit from the responsibility of the organisation. Otherwise, the rest of the organisation has been unaffected. As regards to the second part of the question. that is a discussion between two individuals, who have accepted to have a discussion within the framework of the Indian constitution. And therefore, we have no such qualms about any effect resulting from that kind of discussion to the parent organisation that I lead.
Manoranjana Sinh: Are you or Mr. Paresh Baruah in touch with Arabinda or any other senior cadres who walked out of the organisation?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: For your kind information Mr. Paresh Baruah has also changed his name to Paresh Asom.with a view of giving a new identification for the people of Assam to become united with one name and one aim. And as regards the second part of the question.it is outside the working framework of our organisation, so I have no comment to make on that.
Manoranjana Sinh: In the last negotiations with the government of India, a People Consultative Group (PCG) was formed. At that time, both the factions of ULFA were dealing with the Government of India through the PCG. Do you think that any civil body like PCG could be formed once again to help you to negotiate with the GOI?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Indeed, that's a very interesting question. Any group of individuals or any single individual including you could be the leading light to make sure that the government of India comes forward without any conditions to discuss with my organisation for the sole purpose of restoring the sovereignty of Assam, which has been stolen from the people of Assam. We have three pre-conditions which we tried to water down at the request of the government, but due to the insincerity of the GOI, we lost faith in the authorities. Now as per the wishes of the people of Assam, we have decided that we are not playing games and we make our stand absolutely clear that we shall allow anyone to go forward on the lines of the PCG with the same three pre-conditions - (a) we sit in a third country (b) talks to be held under the auspices of the United Nations and (c) talks to be held for the sole and only purpose of obtaining sovereignty for Assam. and anybody including you may take the lead in bringing the Indian administration to us without any pre-conditions so that we can go forward with our identity in this big wide world.
Manoranjana Sinh: Which is to say that the pre-conditions which you had imposed at the beginning of the talks still remain and you are not ready to dilute your pre-conditions for the sake of furthering your negotiations? So, I repeat that any PCG can take the mediation process forward only on the basis of these three pre-conditions - (i) that the negotiations will be held in a third country (ii) talks will be held under the auspices of the United Nations (iii) and that you will continue to discuss your demand for a sovereign Assam ?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: I think you got a bit of it wrong. PCG or similar organisations or any individual or you can persuade the Indian government to come forward to meet us with the three pre-conditions. to sit with us and discuss the sovereignty of Assam and nothing else.
Manoranjana Sinh: But this is the same position that has been going on for the last three decades. Don't you think it's time for you to step down on your demands and on these pre- conditions for talks ?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Let me remind you that we indeed did so. The last time, we dropped our first two pre-conditions and offered to the GOI to discuss the sovereignty of Assam, which was our third condition. But over all these years, the GOI has not shown any sincerity of purpose and we came back to our position, where we re-imposed the first two conditions once again. And I am sure that you understand that this message will be very loud and clear this time and the government of India shall respect that we are still on the subject of a sovereign Assam.
Manoranjana Sinh: Don't you think that a collective push by both the factions will further the peace process for Assam? Right now, there is only one faction, which is talking to the government of India than there is Mr. Paresh Baruah and Dr. Abhijit Asom, that is you. And this is making it difficult for peace to return to Assam? Today is the right day for us all to collectively give a big push to the peace process in Assam in accordance with our larger goal and objective.
Dr. Abhijit Asom: I understand your position. And you used the word "Peace". But the simple word peace does not reflect the aspirations of the majority of the people of Assam. Majority of the people of Assam want the restoration of sovereignty of Assam. And this struggle has been ongoing since Assam lost its independence. Therefore, in my organisation's view.the only way to bring peace, prosperity to the people of Assam is to restore the sovereignty of Assam. I want to take this opportunity once again to tell the people of Assam that any group, individual or even you can take the lead in mediating between us and the government of India in the larger interest of our people and our land.
Manoranjana Sinh: The shadow of ULFA still continues to loom large on Assam's political landscape. The fact that both of you, I address the question to both of you are reduced to being the leaders of a rump of what used to be once a very powerful militant organisation as the self-styled commander and a self-styled chairman.you still send shivers down the collective spine of the politicians of both Assam and of the country. In many recent instances, your group has demonstrated its ability to strike at will, just when they thought Assam would witness a violence free decade. So no matter how small or outnumbered the government understands you to be, you have proved your ability to foment trouble in the state. Now, you draw your strength from the very powerful Bangladeshi Intelligence Agency (DGFI) and Pakistani spy agency ISI and Chinese Intelligence and I doubt that those agencies will ever allow both of you to come overground or to join the peace process or to return to India. So what is the future of your revolution? ....And that also is linked to the future of Assam.
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Future of Assam is dependent on the sovereignty of Assam but going back to the one point that you have mentioned, which is violence, I am sure you are perhaps aware of the massive violence that the GoI had inflicted upon the people of Assam during the Assam movement from 1979 to 1985. They had led a movement without resorting to arms. Are you aware of that movement? Are you aware how many hundreds of young students were killed in this movement ? More than 600. almost 668 young people laid their lives at this time. They were killed by the security forces, who killed those people.counter insurgency forces of which Country?
Manoranjana Sinh: India
Dr. Abhijit Asom: India killed 668 unarmed students for demonstrating on the streets of Assam, who were democratically marching. They were killed. Was that non-violent action? Since 1990, do you know how many cadres we have lost? How can you then say that we are violent ? I deny that.
We are only protecting ourselves from the counter insurgency forces. We are not violent. We do not want violence. We want to resolve the sovereignty question of Assam. Bringing any foreigners into this issue is pointless. As you know in politics it is interests and our interest is to restore the sovereignty of Assam and we shall take help from any friendly country, person, which we can rely on. We want only trustworthy people who will not damage the interest of Assam and stop us in our path and help us in regaining our freedom.
Manoranjana Sinh: What I am trying to say Dr Abhijit is that you have very close ties with the Bangladeshi, Pakistani as well as the Chinese intelligence agencies. You drawn you strength from the ISI and the Chinese agencies and you call these countries as friendly countries. How can you call them as friendly countries and say that they are not damaging India? They are, by any stretch of imagination, countries that are enemy nations to India.
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Well, you are now talking like an Indian. Aren't you dear! Why should I worry about anyone damaging India? I am not trying to save India. I am trying to save myself. India has damaged Assam right and left. Why should I worry about India's damage? I want India to be a friendly next-door country. I am not looking at India's interest and my interest is Assam. I am not an Indian person. Neither are any of my colleagues in the organisation. Perhaps, we are all thinking that there is some sort of deficiency in your thinking that you are assuming we are part of India but we are not. No! Assam has never been a part of India. This status of Assam, we deny. It is a forceful occupation by Indian establishment by using Indian military forces.
Manoranjana Sinh: Is it true Dr. Abhijit that you and other ULFA entities, whom you claim to be non-Indian will never come over ground to deal with GOI except in a third country.
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Yes indeed, that is the case now. Deal is a word, where you made deals, which means you make compromises.
Manoranjana Sinh: Let us call it negotiations and associations. So how will you ever come overground in any way to negotiate peace? Do you see a situation, in the next few years, where Assam will secede from India?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: No, we don't expect Assam to break away. We expect India to restore Assam's historical independent status and gracefully return our sovereignty, which was stolen from us. And be a friendly next door. On that basis, we will then negotiate other things without any qualms. As we said we don't want to be enemies of the state of India. We can negotiate with India in the area of economics, development and progress. And the progress of India will be an example to the people of Assam to march ahead and try to match the progress of India. So that Assam can also do better.
Manoranjana Sinh: Dr. Abhijit ! That once again brings me back to the statement that these are not friendly countries, you were referring to Bangladesh, Pakistan, China as friendly countries, and insisting that they will not damage the prospect of Assam. But at the moment you know and as we understand that the anti-talks faction of ULFA is currently cornered and you are dangerous for the state of Assam and the people of India. You have made no secret of the fact that Pakistan has supported ULFA and encouraged you and your comrades to step up your violent activities against Assam. In other words, you are in the clutches of Pakistan, which is abetting you to create further turmoil on the soil of Assam. How will you come out of the clutches of these countries, which you call friendly and we call enemies?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: First of all, I did not label any country as friendly or unfriendly. I said that we should shake hands with those who are our friends and those who have the interest of Assam at heart. There are some countries, as you know at the time of Bangladesh independence, India was friendly to the people of East Pakistan at that time. And there are similar examples, in other parts of the world in restoring sovereignty to some nations. In international politics there is no permanent friend or enemy. We don't expect that India should, being a mature country, keep on using propaganda against our organisation, which has in turn taken a defensive posture for the interest of Assam. So we have an objection to your words that you have used .."being in the clutches of a foreign country..." which is not entirely correct or very wise, keeping in mind the world scenario. That sort of wording only shows that you are looking at us through colored lenses. Perhaps, you are wearing blue lenses.(Laughs).
Manoranjana Sinh: Do you think that the recent peace initiatives taken by New Delhi against the militant groups of Northeast are sufficient to solve the problems of the region?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: India is a mature country and has been very successful in international diplomacy. So, obviously India is trying its best to minimize the impact on her interest. Any Indian will do that. I wouldn't blame India for doing that. But what I am concerned about is the divide and rule policy adopted by India, which you know is bad. They are spreading bad feelings against our people, which is not conducive for having a peaceful living together. It would be better for India to think of my region that is the South East region, which is an entity of its own. There are different groups with their different existence and they should be given ideas to develop their own identity that they want to do. That would be more mature for India rather than playing divide and rule and making peace talks, etc. I am sure and you will appreciate what I am trying to say. It is a deep policy decision for our organisation and for the region as a whole. I will not elaborate on this anymore. India should have responsibility.they should take due care and behave amicably.
Manoranjana Sinh: When you refer to the sovereignty of Assam, are you referring to undivided Assam or to Assam with its present territorial boundaries?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: If you listen carefully to what I said in the previous answer, you will find certain ideas connected to what you have asked. To make the question and its answer very simple and easy at the moment, we would like to be guided by the people of Assam. The people of Assam will be the leading light in deciding the areas that they would like to call Assam.
Manoranjana Sinh: You recently visited Geneva along with Mr. Paresh Baruah. Is the ULFA in touch with international human rights organisation to further its objective and goal?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: That is the wrong information you have.We did not visit Geneva.
Manoranjana Sinh: Agreed that you did not visit Geneva is what you say. But is the ULFA in touch or not with international human rights organisation to further its goal and objective?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Yes, all liberation-seeking organisations are in touch with human rights organisation across the globe. Like any other such organisation looking at sovereignty for their territory, we are also in touch with human rights organisations.
Manoranjana Sinh: So you have always been in touch?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: We have always been in touch.
Manoranjana Sinh: Is there any positive outcome?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Positive outcome will be when we get our independence. Yes, next question please!
Manoranjana Sinh: What is your view about illegal immigration?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Do you understand the word "tholgiri"? We stand for the tholgiris of Assam. That is the main focus.
Manoranjana Sinh: Are you keep track of the extradition of your jailed leader Anup Chetia? It is understood that he is in contact with the Arabinda Rajkhowa group and his sympathies lie with them. Is that true ?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: As far as I understand, it is all news material. Anup Chetia has been kept in protective custody in Bangladesh jail and he has no direct contact with the organisation. And, therefore, I have no further comment to make.
Manoranjana Sinh: So you say that he (Anup Chetia) has no direct contact with anybody (ULFA top brass)?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Yes indeed, he does not have any direct contact with the organisation I think.
Manoranjana Sinh: People think that Anup Chetia has sympathy for Arabinda Rajkhowa faction and not for you?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: As I said, we don't have any direct contact with him (Anup Chetia).
Manoranjana Sinh: There is a recent death of one of your lady cadre Jahanabi Mahanta.
Dr. Abhijit Asom: I will not like to react on that.. You have gone beyond your what I expected you to ask...
Manoranjana Sinh: Do you think that after 34 years of your fight for the sovereignty of Assam, you have achieved anything ? Do you consider it worthwhile to continue your fight?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: Yes, otherwise we would have given it up.
Manoranjana Sinh: My last question, Dr Abhijit, is it not true that the people of Assam are not as passionate about the ULFA as they were in 1980s and the 1990s. Is it true that you have lost contact with the people of Assam?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: No, we haven't lost contact with the people of Assam, neither the people of Assam have lost contact with us.
Manoranjana Sinh: What can you bargain for the people of Assam from India?
Dr. Abhijit Asom: "O' Mur Aapunar Dekh"
Dr. Abhijit Asom: You have been very patient. Thank you so much. Hope we will continue this discussion again.
Manoranjana Sinh: Thank you, Thank you so much.