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Banned ULFA had sought Britain’s assist in Dhaka

Days earlier than the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta authorities was dismissed in 1990 and the Indian Army launched Operation Bajrang in opposition to the secessionist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), three of its senior functionaries met a British diplomat in Dhaka and sought the UK’s assist to additional its trigger.

Newly declassified paperwork launched by National Archives present that whereas the banned outfit was attacking British industrial pursuits within the tea gardens in Assam, it was looking for the UK’s assist on the political stage and providing the British diplomat a tour of its camps in Assam.

In 1990 – when Assam was gripped by rigidity and worry – the then Mahanta-led Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was a constituent of the National Front (NF) authorities led by V P Singh. But the AGP authorities was dismissed on November 27 after the NF authorities fell and Chandra Shekhar shaped his minority authorities.

On October 2, the three functionaries – common secretary Anup Chetia (actual title Golap Barua), publicity secretary Sidhartha Phukan (actual title Sunil Nath) and Iqbal – met the diplomat, David Austin, who reported the assembly to London in a observe described as “fascinating”. Chetia and Phukan have been a part of the highest management of the outfit.

Austin wrote within the observe to the London headquarters on October four that the ULFA’s “inspiration is the State of Israel. If Israel can survive surrounded by the hostile Arab world, then why not Assam surrounded by hostile Indian forces?”

He was proven images, together with these of a coaching camp within the Lakhimpur district of Assam, and among the outfit’s leaflets. The images included one in every of its commanders-in-chief, Paresh Barua, standing on the China border with a Chinese military liaison officer.

“The three men asked for help/advice in four separate areas: UK support in publicising the ULFA’s activities and aims; advice on whether the ULFA would be able to set up an office in the UK; an introduction to other Western diplomatic missions in Dhaka; and how to get in contact with authorities in Israel who may be able to help them,” Austin wrote.

He added that the ULFA’s propaganda effort was a “new one” and that they had been capable of “approach foreign diplomatic missions in Bangladesh without the possibility of RAW intervening – something it is unable to do in New Delhi”.

Austin, nevertheless, declined the supply to go to the camps.

On November 5, diplomat D D W Martin on the British excessive fee in New Delhi described Austin’s observe as “fascinating”, and wrote to the international workplace, “They have obviously now decided to target western diplomats.”

“That they should do so tends to corroborate the periodic press allegations that the ULFA can operate with impunity in Bangladesh, perhaps even with the tacit complicity of the authorities,” he added.

According to Martin, the China hyperlink talked about in Austin’s observe was “new and interesting”.

He wrote, “I have only heard it mentioned before by a Congress-I MLA in Assam, who alleged that the Indian Intelligence Services knew all about the Chinese involvement, but were keeping quiet for fear of damaging the process of rapprochement between India and China.”

“During their meeting with David Austin, the ULFA were understandably silent about their activities against the tea companies in Assam. But it seems extraordinary that the organisation should make an approach to us on the political level, while at the same time, threatening our commercial interests in Assam,” Martin added.

The diplomatic letters had been despatched to London at a time when the ULFA’s actions had unfold a lot worry in Assam, dominating public discourse. On Austin, looking for recommendation on whether or not he ought to maintain additional conferences with the ULFA functionaries, Martin wrote that no such conferences ought to be held.

Martin wrote, “The ULFA is a militant organisation pursuing violent means to subvert the established order in Assam. By pressurising tea companies, it also threatens British interests. Contacts with the ULFA would therefore be hard to explain to the Government of India.”

In the late 1980s and 1990, because the publicity secretary, Phukan had arrange what Martin known as a “sophisticated PR machine”, which was then centered on the Indian press, with journalists granted unique interviews with ULFA leaders.

The journalists, he added, had been “taken to spectacular press conferences in the bush and exposed to a variety of more or less impressive stunts designed to show off ULFA as a formidable fighting unit”.

Since 1990, there have been a number of ULFA-related developments, together with the military’s Operation Rhino, give up by a number of of its leaders and functionaries, suspension of operations, and talks with New Delhi by a piece of the outfit that has come over-ground.

Since one other part continues with the ULFA’s secessionist goals and subversive actions, the ministry of house affairs in November 2019 prolonged till 2024 the ban first imposed on the outfit in 1990 below the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

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