‘The Assam clashes are about land and livelihood, not religion’
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he revealed that the ISI were encouraging the ULFA to increase their activities in Assam because troops were being withdrawn from the Northeast for Kashmir.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.