[Assam] Assamese masses must have woken unto the fact that the ULFA is free of blame, applied on them by India, of the ULFA unclaimed explosions and killings all along.

Bartta Bistar barttabistar at googlemail.com
Sat May 12 05:33:56 PDT 2007

 From anti-ULFA to anti-army protests in Assam



*Saturday May 12, 12:08 PM*

Guwahati, May 12 (IANS) Recurring incidents of excesses and charges of
staged shootouts by counter-insurgency forces in Assam has changed the tide
from vibrant anti-militant protests to widespread anger against those
fighting terror.

Barely a couple of months back, the hills and dales of Assam were
reverberating with echoes of people shouting anti-militant slogans - close
to 100 people were butchered since January in a string of bloody attacks and

All the attacks were blamed on the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom
(ULFA), a rebel group fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since

New Delhi responded immediately by resuming a military offensive against the
ULFA. Never before did Assam witness such revulsions against the ULFA -
protests were staged across the state with a multitude of people taking to
the streets.

But in matter of weeks, the protests changed gear with the tone shifting
from anti-militant to anti-army with federal soldiers making a number of
unnecessary goof-ups by committing excesses on civilians and indulging in
shootouts involving innocents.

For the past one week, Assam is reeling under a wave of anti-army protests
over the killing of 24-year-old Buddheswar Moran in eastern Assam's Tinsukia
district in an alleged 'encounter' (euphemism for staged shootouts) last
weekend - army authorities earlier this week admitted it was an 'unfortunate
incident' and ordered a probe.

Security analysts said frequent bungling by the army could boomerang.

'Incidents of fake killings, torture, and excesses, by the army in the name
of countering militancy would further alienate the masses,' former Assam
police chief Hare Krishna Deka told IANS.

'To prolong intervention militarily in a civil conflict situation is a wrong
policy and the government should try and resolve the problem through
negotiations immediately.'

Across eastern Assam, thousands of people blocked highways and shouted
anti-army slogans over the killing of Moran - the army earlier claimed he
was a 'hardcore ULFA' rebel. Locals refuted the charges and said Moran was a
private guard at a tea plantation and had no militant links.

The army engaged in anti-insurgency operations in Assam and Arunachal
Pradesh is under fire over frequent allegations of rights violations,
torture of innocent civilians, and fake encounters while conducting raids.

'You cannot allow state-sponsored terrorism to continue in a democratic
country,' warned Lachit Bordoloi, who heads the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samity
(MASS), a leading rights group in Assam.

The excesses committed by the army have given the ULFA the much needed arm
to bounce back and enlist public sympathy.

'The mounting anti-army protests vindicate our stand that the army has been
unleashing terror on innocent civilians. The army should go back
immediately,' ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said in a statement Friday.

Earlier this week the army tendered an apology to the Arunachal Pradesh
government after government lawmakers alleged atrocities committed on locals
by soldiers while conducting raids on ULFA bases.

In July last year, the army punished Major Nishant Sharma and Rifleman Sudip
Gurung after finding the duo guilty of killing a villager in custody - the
court of inquiry was ordered after widespread public protests in eastern

In December, the army was mired in yet another row over torture in custody
of a separatist suspect. Army authorities were later forced to apologize and
order a court of inquiry after Nipul Saikia, a farmer, was picked up by
soldiers and was seriously injured while in custody.

Top army commanders later apologized for the incident following mounting
public upsurge.
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