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Downplaying cross border link

New Delhi, Fri, 31 Oct 2008 Deepak Kumar Mohanty

A day after the serial blasts in north-eastern state of Assam which reportedly killed at least 70 and wounded several hundred more, the security and intelligence agency are clueless about the involvement of any terrorist organisation behind the blast. The prime suspect and the banned separatist outfit, United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has by now denied any link to Thursday's blasts.

The government has been pointing towards a new ULFA group trained in Bangladesh, as the state has lately suffered militant attacks by Islamist militants from neighbouring Bangladesh. ULFA, which has been fighting for an independent homeland since 1979, has denied any role. So the questions here come: who is behind the blast? And if there is no role of ULFA, why is the Government of India downplaying any cross border link?

As far as ULFA is concerned, it is active in the state more than a decade now and has been banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 1990. According to various official and unofficial reports, at least 10,000 people have been died thus far in the armed struggle between Indian army and ULFA’s various military wings.

In fact, a negotiation between the government and the banned organisation which broke down in 2006 after a year-long talk though resulted in brining some groups to denounce violence, several ULFA battalions including the 27th and 109th are still stick to their earlier demands of independent political power. For the past 10 years, the group has been blamed for carrying out bomb blasts across the state.

The Indian government too at time and again launched several combing operation to discourage separatist sentiments, but somehow overlooked ULFA’s links with any international terror organisations that has been translated into a more critical issue. Lately, links have been established with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). Reports also point out active ULFA training camps in Bangladesh, and it’s participation in many business activities there.

Bangladesh is well known to patronise HuJI operations; some of the major bomb attacks in India this year are also linked to the outfit. However, local separatists have been blamed for recent blasts in north-east states. It is evident from various sources that there might have some strong coordination between domestic (north-east separatists) and international terror establishments.

Investigation so far into the Thursday blasts in Guwahati and other towns revealed use of very sophisticated RDX-based explosive and that to a very large quantity. So, if it is believed that ULFA is behind the blasts, the government should deem about its cross border connections. Even if it is not directly ULFA, the Centre needs to change its strategy of mere splitting ULFA cadres and rather look into a broader movement of Islamic jihadi militancy by a dozen other organisations in the state.

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