There is a vicious circle in the extortion of money from officials involved in rural development works. Such officers, who do not enjoy any high security and work in adverse conditions, have no option but to pay, the payment made from funds meant for development in backward areas. As a result, these areas continue to remain backward, which is what insurgents-turned-terrorists — who are bereft of any ideology, though they claim they are championing the ‘‘cause’’ of oppressed people, and who are only in the business of expanding the industry of terrorism — precisely want, because they are then able to exploit poverty and backwardness further and draw recruits from among the unemployed and frustrated youth in such areas which will sustain the industry of terrorism.
It was reported that the Paresh Baruah faction of the ULFA had also started demanding money from contractors engaged in development projects in upper Assam, and a foreign company too, engaged in oil exploration, had been served an extortion notice. In the absence of adequate security, officials and contractors working in rural areas are soft targets of militants in the Northeast. Funds meant for rural development — which is a must to contain rebellion — are channelled to the coffers of non-state actors. It will be recalled how an enormous scam, involving allegedly Rs 1,000 crore, had hit the North Cachar Hills district of Assam a couple of years ago, in which politicians from the district acted in tandem with the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) — a Dimasa militant outfit of the area — to loot funds meant for the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council. Investigations are on. The other dimension of the problem is the role played by hostile foreign agencies. When, for instance, the ULFA had its base in Bangladesh and was in the grip of the Bangladesh wing of the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), this rogue spy agency was believed to have pumped in a lot of money to the outfit in order to destabilize Assam, then the rest of the Northeast, and then the rest of the country via a second proxy route, besides the first one via Kashmir. Until and unless the sources of funding of militant groups in this region are blocked, violence in the name of ‘‘people’s revolution’’ will remain the order of the day. And initiating peace talks with just one faction of an outfit, however sustainable it might seem, will never do. The other factions will continue to terrorize unarmed officials and contractors engaged in rural development works to extract money as they desire.