Guwahati, March 4: The recent induction of youths to the banned outfit United Liberation Front of Assam - Independent, (ULFA-I) has once again left a question mark on the peace talks between the government and the rebel group. Both ULFA-I and the Assam Police are providing contrasting views in this regard. While the Assam Police says that youths are being recruited by the group, the outfit denies such reports stating that some other elements are weaving a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the organisation.
We have reached out to the publicity wing of the ULFA-I, however, we did not receive any response till the filing of this report.
Of late reports of two girls who were missing from Guwahati were suspected to have joined the rebel group. Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta confirmed the reports of two girls identified as Saraswati Das and Rumi Deka from Guwahati joining ULFA-I.
The DGP also added several youths have joined the militant outfit in the past few months. However, he said that the facts are being verified.
On the other hand, the ULFA-I Commander-in-Chief Paresh Barua while speaking to a local channel admitted that one girl with the title Das has joined the outfit. However, he categorically denied any recruitment drive carried out by the ULFA-I.
In February, a press release issued by the outlawed group, it has alleged that other forces have been creating fake Facebook accounts in the name of the outfit and luring unemployed youths to join the group for vested interests. They further warned of dire consequences against those involved in such tactics.
Earlier, during an interaction with The Assam Tribune, Barua claimed that the youths were willingly joining ULFA for a cause they passionately believed to be just and sincere.
Over the past few years, although the influx of youth in the outfit has seen a decline, the fresh recruitment at the time when the peace parleys are going on is worrisome.
Experts aware with the recent developments are of the view that unemployment induced by the pandemic could be one of the reasons behind the recent shift of the youths to the outlawed group. Lack of job opportunities pushed many youths towards insurgency. Alternatively, lucrative benefits or rehabilitation from the Assam Government might attract the youths since the primary focus of the ongoing peace talks is rehabilitation of its members that will help its cadres lead a dignified life.
Another major reason highlighted by the experts could be the need for manpower in rebuilding the General headquarters, which was destroyed in 2019, during Operation Sunrise by the armies of both India and Myanmar.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had on January 1 said that bringing ULFA-I to the negotiation table is the "last hurdle" in bringing peace to the State. While pointing out that the stumbling block is 'sovereignty', Sarma assured that the Government is working on breaking the deadlock. He urged the ULFA-I Chief Paresh Barua to shun violence following which the group declared a unilateral ceasefire for three months, and has extended at regular intervals.
Meanwhile, the faction alleged that not much progress has been made so far over the Centre's "sincerity" in taking forward the decade-long peace parleys with it.