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ULFA(I) trying to step up extortion drive

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, March 10 - With militancy on the wane, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) is desperately trying to keep itself afloat and to tide over serious financial crunch, the outfit has been trying to step up extortion drive in upper Assam districts.

Security sources told The Assam Tribune that militancy in the entire North East suffered a major set back after Myanmar army launched a major offensive last year and took over the camps of the militants. Following the operations, members of the militant groups were scattered and took shelter in the villages near the international border and in jungles and they were in disarray. Moreover, the Government of Myanmar has been putting pressure on NSCN(K) to sign the national cease fire agreement signed by several other major militant outfits active in the neighbouring country. At present, the militant groups of North East barring the Meitei outfits, survive only with the help of NSCN(K).

Sources said that the problem for the outfits complicated further after the National Democratic Front of Boroland (S) came over ground recently to sign peace pact with the Government of India.

The NDFB(S) was a part of the umbrella body of the North East militant outfits.

Security sources said that facing hard time, the ULFA(I) is desperately trying to boost its coffers as no militant outfit can survive without steady flow of funds. Sources said that the ULFA(I) has targeted the tea gardens and stone quarries of upper Assam districts and according to information available, some are making payments without informing the police. However, the flow of funds has been restricted and the ULFA(I) is forced to negotiate over the demanded sum.

Sources said that instead of sending its own cadres to collect money, the ULFA(I) has been using sympathizers and middlemen to collect extorted money. �As squeezing the fund flow is the best way to check militancy, the police and security forces are trying to apprehend the middlemen and sympathizers who are involved in collection of funds on behalf of militants.

The ULFA(I) has also been trying to launch a recruitment drive but only a few youths from upper Assam districts have joined the outfit, which no longer has a support base in other parts of the State, sources added.

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