The recent surrender of seven local ULFA-I cadres of Tinsukia district on March 18 last clearly reflects on a fact that slowly but steadily the youth of Assam is starting to understand the futility of their joining the ULFA.
They realized that they were operating for a pittance as ULFA cadres, risking their life against the actions of security forces, are facing hardships at the camps in Myanmar, while the top leadership of the group including Paresh Baruah were safely ensconced in foreign countries enjoying the huge sums of money accumulated by them.
Since its raising in 1979, ULFA in its early years had good appeal and popularity among the local populace as the principal flag bearer of Assamese nationalism.
In the early years of its raising it was even involved in execution of a lot of public welfare projects under the banner of Jatiya Unnayan Parishad. During these years, the locals in huge numbers were willingly joining ULFA for a cause they fervently believed to be just and sincere.
However over the past two decades ULFA has followed a path which has taken it away from its stated goal, alienated it from the masses and pushed it increasingly in to the groove of terrorism sans ideology.
In the recent years, more and more youth of Assam have started to understand the futility of supporting ULFA and realizing the adverse impact it has made on their lives.
According to the 2014 report by National Statistics Commission, Assam ranked second in both urban and rural unemployed youth. Prolonged insurgency has created 2.5 million unemployed Assamese youth who face bleak prospects for the future. Around 70 per cent of the unemployed youth are educated. These unemployed but educated youth are the recruitment pool from which ULFA is assured of steady supply of foot soldiers to fill up its cadres.
Most of the Assamese communities have moved on in life as is evident from the fact that the numbers of youth joining ULFA has reduced to a trickle.
However there still remain a few who become inclined to consider illegal means to attain economic security and joining ULFA appears to them to be an easier, glorious and lucrative option.
What these youngsters do not realize is that it is not as glamorous as it looks from the outside. The life inside the ULFA camps is laborious and lackluster with most of these youngsters being used for menial jobs inside the camp like cooking and farming without much of payment.
The separation from their families, exploitation by the higher ups and continuous pressure from security forces of Myanmar and India, leads to a dawning realization of their predicament but by then it is too late. The lucky ones manage to escape and return to their homes to lead a normal life.
To Paresh Baruah, the local youth is an expendable entity whose arrest or death is of no significance as long as the money keeps coming in.
Recent reports have indicated that ULFA is facing a financial crunch, but the brunt of it is being faced by the cadres at lower rungs with hardly any impact on Paresh Baruah and his inner coterie. He continues to become rich at the expense of the Assamese people.
With the benefit of hindsight, if we the Assamese people were to dispassionately assess ULFA’s activities and consequently the legacy we bequeath on our future generations, we emerge as a naïve and gullible people whose faith has been repeatedly abused by Paresh Baruah.
The only losers in this entire insurgency episode in Assamese history are the Assamese people whose interests have been ignored and severely compromised. The Assamese civil society is now aware of these facts but still reluctant to voice their disapproval on public platforms.
Paresh Baruah and his ilk will continue to harm and inflict irreversible damage on the interests of Assamese people unless we come forward fearlessly to expose the malevolence and malice that ULFA-I perpetuates under the veneer of fighting for our well being.
The heartening thing is that the youth of the State has started understanding this sentiment and shunning the path of violence.
The day is not far when this downward spiral would make ULFA as an extinct organization. In the coming days it is expected that more and more misled young cadres of ULFA are going to come forward and surrender themselves to the security forces so as to tap the prevailing positive atmosphere and propel their energies towards something productive for the State.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Northeast Now.