‘The As­sam clashes are about land and liveli­hood, not re­li­gion’

Tehelka - - 20 - 699

will want to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion. Mi­gra­tion to In­dia, first from East Pak­istan, and then Bangladesh has al­ways been there. One rea­son this hap­pens in As­sam is vote­bank pol­i­tics. If you look back at the As­sam Ag­i­ta­tion, it was a move­ment against the so-called for­eign­ers mov­ing into As­sam. Not only Bangladeshis, Nepalis too were be­ing evicted. It is not about re­li­gion, it is about land and liveli­hood. Isn’t it iron­i­cal that the based its pol­i­tics on an anti-Bangladeshi im­mi­grant stance but even­tu­ally ac­cept- ed Dhaka’s help to fight In­dia? The ul­ti­mate irony is that the move­ment be­gan as an an­tifor­eigner move­ment — less Nepal, more Bangladesh — and they have been ex­iled in Bangladesh. As­samese mil­i­tants I met in Bangladesh were not happy to be there but they thought they had no choice. They were be­ing used by Bangladesh in­tel­li­gence ser­vices to cre­ate trou­ble in In­dia. The Di­rec­torate Gen­eral of Forces In­tel­li­gence ( DGFI) and the Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party ( BNP), more than the Awami League, were be­hind this pol­icy. Things shifted in Bangladesh de- I first met Barua in 1985 in a Naga camp in north­west­ern Burma. The Burmese army at­tacked the camp. He was an ex­cel­lent fighter, much bet­ter than any other Naga. Un­like Ara­binda Ra­jkhowa, who was more in­tel­lec­tu­ally mo­ti­vated, Barua was the most mil­i­tant of all ULFA lead­ers and more po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. The sec­ond time I met Barua was in Bangkok. He had come from Sin­ga­pore, where he re­vealed that the ISI were en­cour­ag­ing the ULFA to in­crease their ac­tiv­i­ties in As­sam be­cause troops were be­ing with­drawn from the North­east for Kash­mir. It was in Pak­istan’s in­ter­est to reignite some kind of un­rest in the re­gion so that In­dia could move its troops back from Kash­mir. This was quite telling. I was quite sur­prised he was ready to tell me that. I met him for the third time in a safe house in Dhaka, es­corted by two Bangladeshi in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers, who were not par­tic­u­larly happy to see me around. Whether you sym­pa­thise with them or not but from be­ing a na­tion­al­ist move­ment, the ULFA be­came a pawn in the hands of the es­tab­lish­ment of all coun­tries.

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