January 23, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/ Assam DGP Hare Krishna Deka

'The ULFA gameplan has backfired'

Hare Krishna Deka is a director general of police with a difference. Fighting the United Liberation Force of Asom and other militant groups in Assam is not his only passion. He writes poetry, is a literary critic and a voracious reader.

Deka won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1987 and the Katha award for short stories in Assamese in 1995. His award-winning story was about a senior police officer who is kidnapped by a terrorist group. Slowly, both sides transcend differences while living together and the experience brings out their human sensitivity and frailties.

Deka says his literary pursuits have helped him fight terrorism -- because as a writer, he sees life in a broader perspective. As the bloodbath of recent killings in the state resulted in over hundred deaths, Deka spoke to Roving Editor Ramesh Menon about ULFA and the tragedy of Assam.

What was ULFA's main demand when it began as an organisation?

ULFA was active since 1982. It first created a flutter by killing a well-known Bengali lawyer, Kalipada Sen. Earlier, ULFA's main plank was that outsiders was swamping Assam. So it had some sympathy.

It was also a separatist organisation.

When it started off, it said that it wanted to liberate Assam. It claimed that Assam was never a part of India.

But the Assamese do not subscribe to that belief.

ULFA has created an exclusive group called Enigma B, not known to other cadres. They are being used just for hit and run operations.
By nature, the Assamese do not like violence. The tide turned when the army searches at the ULFA headquarters at Lakshmipathar in Dibrugarh district and Charaingpung in Tinsukia district found mass graves. People were shocked as ULFA cadres had tortured all their victims before killing them and had thrown them into mass graves. The Assamese were very disturbed.

How has it survived for such a long period?

It used neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Bhutan for shelter. Because of our crackdown, there have been numerous surrenders. Only a few remain. It has now suffered a serious setback. Many leaders have been killed. Over 2,700 have surrendered in the last three years. We have got over 3,000 of their weapons. We have recovered over ten million rupees in cash that was extorted.

Who looks after the organisation and trains them today?

Earlier, it had sanctuaries in rural Assam. Then in Bhutan and Bangladesh. It were first trained by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in their Myanmar camps and later by the Kachin Independent Army. Later, it came into contact with ISI agents who took them for training to Pakistan.

Over a hundred people have been killed in the last two months in Assam. What do you see in it?

Basically, the Hindi speaking people are being targetted. ULFA has been behind it. It wants to discredit the government that is cracking down on them. It also wants to discredit the security forces as they have been successful.

ULFA leaders have asked their cadres in the Bhutan camp not to read Assamese newspapers and magazines as it is full of anger against them.
Does the Assam Tiger Force exist? It seems like a red herring. Some such leaflets were thrown in where the killings have taken place.

There is nothing called the Assam Tiger Force. ULFA has created it so that common folk do not get antognised against the killings. ULFA floated it just to test the reaction of the Assamese. As they have seen an adverse reaction, they are saying that the ATF is doing it.

People now seem to be disgusted with ULFA.

The common man in Assam is disgusted with violence. Peace marches have been held all over the state. The newspapers and magazines are full of articles by intellectuals condemning the killings by ULFA. In fact, its leaders have asked their cadres in the Bhutan camp not to read Assamese newspapers and magazines as it is full of anger against ULFA.

Would you say ULFA's gameplan has backfired?

The gameplan was to target the Hindi-speaking population. The idea was to ride on public sentiment as they know that the Assamese suffer from a neglect syndrome as they feel outsiders have thrived at their expense. But it did not work. Yes, it has backfired. Pakistan had asked them to do this earlier, but ULFA rejected it fearing it would lose public support. Inside ULFA, there is opposition to it even today.

Then, how is it being done?

It has the sanction of just two or three top leaders. They have created an exclusive group called Enigma B and are not known to other cadres. They are isolated from the other cadres. They are being used just for such hit and run operations. The killings in Upper Assam have the okay of Tapan Barua, commander of ULFA's 28th battalion, and in Lower Assam it is okayed by Raju Barua, who is second in command.

What is the government now planning to do?

We have identified 1,800 areas inhabited by Hindi-speaking people. We will have night village defence parties to patrol villages. But the thing to do is to develop people's resistance groups. Ultimately, they have to take the initiative. The police just cannot be everywhere.

ULFA leaders are said to have assets worth millions of rupees.

According to certain sources, over 200 million rupees have been invested in Bangladesh banks. They also have business ventures in Bangladesh.

Who has been killing the family members of ULFA members in the last few weeks?

We are investigating. We will protect the families of ULFA leaders.

Photographs: Ramesh Menon. Design: Dominic Xavier

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'Nobody in Assam takes ULFA lightly': Sunil Nath
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