The legendary RAW official Bibhuti Bhusan Nandy once told me a secret I had no idea about. During his tenure in Bangkok as R&AW station chief, he had Paresh Barua in his sights. With some top source he had cultivated in Thailand police, Nandy hatched a plan to hit Barua and eliminate him when the Assam warlord was in town meeting arms dealers and other rebel contacts including those from the LTTE. Nandy’s proposed operation was rejected.
The legendary spymaster, who had even planted an Indian origin Burmese agent in Kachin Independence Army to monitor the movement of Northeast Indian rebels in that corridor used by rebels heading for China from northeast India, was shocked. His boss, the hawkish A K Verma had never refused to authorise any of Nandy’s operations.
From planting a top Thai source in an US-led China monitoring centre (a top SIGINT facility) to agreeing to help the KIA in lieu of expulsion of Northeastern rebels from Kachin, all of Nandy’s operations were cleared by Verma and suitably funded and backed.
Why then would the proposed ‘hit and snatch raid’ on Paresh Barua not cleared! In the far end of his retired life in Calcutta, Nandi had no answer. “You know Paresh, you might have a clue, does he have a Godfather in Delhi or Dispur or both,” was the question the legendary spymaster lobbed at me. I had no answer. I still don’t have one.
But just when the Bangladesh intelligence was planning to rope in Baruah’s Bangladeshi guards Alamgir and Golam Hossain, the Jamaat-e-Islami supporters from Chatkhil in Noahkhali, news hit the media that Paresh Barua was in negotiations with Sri Sri Ravishanker. The Bangladeshis backed off, because they did not want to upset the Indians, imagining they were trying to negotiate with Baruah. But nothing came out of the negotiations as Baruah went back to singing his old tune of not negotiating unless the sovereignty of Assam was discussed. No Indian government, surely not one led by BJP, can discuss the sovereignty of a part with India.
Now Baruah is back in business, his fighters are setting fire to oil tankers to show they are alive and kicking.
He is also reported to be influencing the Khaplang group leaders like Khonga Konyak to stay away from negotiations with India — supposedly at the behest of the Chinese intelligence.
So why can’t a government keen on surgical strikes try a hit on Paresh Barua! There are any amount of assets Indian intelligence — even Bangladesh intelligence which treats Baruah as an enemy — has in the Ruili region. But the government which has authorised a hit on Dawood Ibrahim (the mafia don nearly got killed in an explosion on way out of his Karachi safe house in 2015) is not yet known to have planned one on Paresh Barua, despite all intelligence agencies saying they need to neutralise Baruah, who they think is the moving force behind the rebel coalition UNLFSWEA.
In 2001, the Congress won the elections because Baruah unleashed his fighters on the AGP. Is someone a gain like that in the rundown to the 2019 parliament polls because the results may not be as decisive in favour of any party as in the state assembly polls in 2014!
It can be hope a pattern will emerge soon and we can hope for answers closer to the polls. For his survival, Baruah is capable to striking deals with his apparent enemies.
Subir Bhaumik is a veteran journalist based in Kolkata and author of several books on Northeast. He can be reached at email@example.com