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‘Death penalty for Barua won’t hit ULFA (I)
Experts on the north-east say the death sentence awarded to United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) chief Paresh Barua and 13 others will have little impact on the outfit as both Barua and most of his cadres have already shifted base out of Bangladesh. They were handed the death penalty by a special court in Chittagong on Thursday for smuggling 10 truck loads of arms into Bangladesh in 2004.
Intelligence officials in the State, however, feel that the elusive insurgent leader will be under pressure to come forward for talks should Myanmar act on the lines of Bangladesh and evict insurgents from north-east, including Barua and his cadres, from its soil. The Assam police have intelligence inputs that Barua is currently operating out of his base along Myanmar-China border.
The seized consignment included 4,930 sophisticated firearms of different types, 840 rocket launchers, 300 rockets, 27,020 grenades, 2,000 grenade-launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 11.41 million bullets.
R.N. Ravi, an expert on the north-east, who earlier served with the Intelligence Bureau, said the Bangladesh court sentence would not have any direct impact on Barua, except a psychological impact on those cadres who are still staying in the neighbouring country.
Mr Ravi, however, felt that if Barua ever comes over for talks with the Indian government, then Bangladesh might seek his extradition and India might be under pressure to hand him over for trial by the Bangladeshi court. He said Barua coming over for talks was inconceivable, unless he lands in a trap.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s security adviser G.M. Srivastava said: “This will tell the people of Assam that what Barua is doing is arms smuggling and not what he claims to be doing — fighting for Assam’s sovereignty. Personally I would like to have him here in Assam to carry forward the peace process with the ULFA. Barua should now realise that the time has come to change his attitude and he should come back home to sit for talks with the government,” Mr. Srivasatva said.
The ULFA, the rival faction of Paresh Barua-led ULFA (Independent), also feels that the Chittagong court verdict would have little impact on Barua or his faction.
Sashadhar Choudhury, the self-styled ‘Foreign Secretary’ of the original ULFA, felt that any sentence passed by a court in India or Bangladesh was of no significance to a rebel leader like Barua.
“He is no longer associated with our organisation. However, looking at the issue from our perspective, handing out death sentence in the arms smuggling case may be significant for law abiding citizens. But for an insurgent, who does not abide by the law and stays in jungle to carry on an armed struggle, it is of no significance,” he added.
Barua headed the military wing of the ULFA as its self-styled commander-in-chief till the insurgent outfit split in 2011, when the outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and other top leaders were apprehended in Bangladesh in 2009 and handed over to India. They later signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre and the Assam government to pave the way for a formal dialogue.
Experts on the north-east say both Barua and most of his cadres have already shifted base out of Bangladesh