GUWAHATI, July 22 (IANS): The Assam government sounded a maximum security alert Friday after reports that a faction of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) led by commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah was planning a massive strike in the state ahead of Independence Day August 15.
"We have reports that Paresh Baruah was planning a major attack in Assam. His cadres could try and attack security forces, crowded places, or even jails," Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists.
Gogoi said security forces have been alerted, after "we were given the terror blueprint by central and state intelligence agencies".
Rebels in insurgency-hit Assam, the largest among the seven northeastern states, have for years been boycotting India's Independence Day and Republic Day (Jan 26) celebrations to protest New Delhi's rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea and timber.
The run-up to the events has always been violent, with ULFA rebels striking vital installations including crude oil pipelines, trains and road and rail bridges, besides targeting army personnel. The ULFA is fighting for an independent homeland since 1979.
Intelligence officials said ULFA rebels were lying low at the moment, but have the potential to strike just a few days before Independence Day. The ULFA has for decades been striking hard on and around Aug 15 to make their presence felt.
A major faction of the ULFA led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa earlier this month offered a unilateral ceasefire with New Delhi aimed at holding peace talks.
"Formal peace talks are due to begin with the pro-talk group very soon," Gogoi said.
Meanwhile, an intelligence official said they had reports that "the rebels were desperately trying to smuggle weapons and explosives into towns and cities for carrying out attacks".
More than 30 rebel armies operate in the northeastern states, their demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.