Indian separatist group in N-E region undertakes massive recruitment drive
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
Guwahati, July 28, IRNA
A frontline Indian separatist group in the restive northeastern state of Assam has undertaken a massive recruitment drive, a month after the outfit suffered a revolt with two potent striking units declaring a unilateral ceasefire, officials said.
A police spokesman said militants of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) were targeting youths in the age group of 18 to 24 to join the outfit.
"We have reports of a large number of youths going missing in recent weeks from various parts of eastern Assam and we suspect these boys and girls might have been recruited by the ULFA," a senior police official said requesting not to be named.
The fresh recruitment drive comes in the wake of the Alpha and Charlie companies of the ULFA's 28th battalion declaring a unilateral ceasefire last month accusing their central leadership of failing to address burning issues facing the state.
The 28th battalion was considered the most potent striking unit of the ULFA.
"There is a vacuum now after the ceasefire by the A and C companies of the ULFA's 28th battalion and hence the rebel leadership was desperately trying to reorganize itself and enroll now cadres to make up for the loss," the official said.
"They are mostly targeting unemployed youths from rural areas, some of them being recruited forcibly, while some of them were lured with money to join the ULFA."
The ceasefire by the 28th battalion has come as a major setback for the ULFA with their presence in eastern Assam's Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Jorhat districts diminishing considerably.
"The unilateral ceasefire has definitely come as a major setback for the ULFA.. In fact, the truce by their two potent striking units has taken the teeth away from the ULFA," Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Four Corps, said.
Jaswal is also the operational head of the Unified Command Structure engaged in a massive anti-insurgency operation against the ULFA and other rebel armies in Assam.
"There is a selective recruitment going on although the ULFA has completely lost all public support and hence finding it difficult," the army commander said.
Stung by the ceasefire decision, the ULFA is now contemplating raising a battalion to make up for the loss.
"The ULFA is definitely trying to raise a battalion, but then with the Alpha and the Charlie companies of the outfit's 28th battalion already in the mainstream now, it would be difficult for any new battalion to get a space in this kind of a situation," the GOC said.
Intelligence reports indicate that the ULFA was facing problems in getting their supply of weapons and explosives after the ceasefire.
"With their main unit in a ceasefire mode and security forces tightening its noose, the ULFA's supply route for weapons is choked and so is their financial position," a military intelligence official said.
Intelligence reports further said the there could be about 200-odd ULFA cadres of the Bravo company of the 28th battalion active in bases inside Myanmar or parts of Arunachal Pradesh and in eastern Assam.
"Now the focus of the operations is on the 27th, 109, and 709 battalions in central and lower (western) Assam areas. The ULFA is totally shattered in upper (eastern) Assam after the ceasefire," the GOC said.
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