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The ULFA Notion of a Second-line Defence Vigil

Bikash Sarmah
(bksarmah07@rediffmail.com)

As The Sentinel reported on Friday, the pro-talks faction of the ULFA (henceforth to be called ULFA-P in this piece) has demanded of the Centre an unarmed battalion comprising the indigenous people of Assam to form a second line of defence to prevent illegal immigration from Bangladesh to the State. The demand was placed before the Centre at a meeting of the outfit with New Delhi on Monday. As the outfit’s general secretary Anup Chetia told this newspaper, “There are frequent complaints and allegations that BSF jawans currently engaged in guarding the India-Bangladesh border are not doing their jobs sincerely. BSF personnel allegedly allow illegal migrants from Bangladesh to enter Assam through the border for money. We have requested the Centre to involve the indigenous people of the State to guard the international border.” In Chetia’s view, such a battalion can be raised by also involving the surrendered militants of the outfit numbering about 2,000.

The ULFA-P, led by the erstwhile chairman of the united ULFA, Arabinda Rajkhowa, one of whose factions is now led ‘militarily’ by the fugitive Paresh Baruah, seeks a ‘political’ settlement to the militancy imbroglio of the State even as there are still different militant undertones in the State. There is still a lot of ambiguity as far as political solution is concerned; in fact, there is ambiguity even in the matter of defining who is indigenous to the State and who is not or who cannot be. The very definition of the term indigenous, as is required by one of the most vital clauses of the Assam Accord calling for constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of the State, is itself mired in controversy, with no agreement in sight even after more than 32 years of the inking of the accord.
But the idea of a second-line defence along the India-Bangladesh border is a new idea. The allegations of BSF jawans allowing illegal Bangladeshis to cross the border after accepting bribes are not new. These are serious allegations with huge implications for the security of the country. That a security force meant for protecting such a crucially strategic international border, that too with a country from where illegal migrants have flowed in to Assam to flood the State and cause a very serious demographic alteration, has chosen to surrender itself to its avarice, is a matter that ought to have been taken up long back at the Central level with heads rolling by now. This has yet to happen. And illegal immigration has continued unabated. Hence perhaps the innovative – if one would call it so – ULFA-P idea.
There are allegations that BSF jawans accept money in the range of Rs 200 to Rs 500 to sell the sovereignty-integrity cause of their own motherland while it is field day as usual for illegal Bangladeshis in the State with no dearth of their political masters helping them find safe havens to live and breed here as one of their most prized electoral assets. The HS Brahma Committee on land reforms has also pointed to such BSF shenanigans.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, under which the BSF operates, ought to have woken up long ago right when such allegations were doing the initial rounds as it entailed not just the security of the nation but also a grave threat to the very existence of a people – the Assamese-speaking and other ethnic people of the already beleaguered State of Assam. The incumbent Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, who wears a nationalistic hat on every occasion when it comes to the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, could have held serious and sincere discussions on the issue with the top BSF leadership as well as the State government in order to set up a mechanism so that the cheap Rs 200-500 bribery bug is nipped in the bud and stern and exemplary action could be taken against the culprits. Heads ought to have rolled.
Needless to say, in India, the nefarious architecture of corruption is a bottom-up set-up, with lower-level people engaged in collecting illicit money in return for favours and a part of the money, as so-called commission, going up to the top hierarchy, while on the other hand the top hierarchy has already excelled in the craft of graft at its own murky and surreptitious level. So when one says heads ought to have rolled, the meaning is that the top bosses of the BSF ought to have been made accountable for whatever cheap and blatantly anti-national has been allowed to happen on the border.

Now the question is whether the second-line indigenous defence as proposed by the ULFA-P is pragmatic and could be effective in securing the indigenous people of the State from the increasing grip of illegal Bangladeshis and their political masters in ‘secular’ abundance.

There are two facts of matter here. First, it is about the perception of one being dedicated to oneself and rating it as the topmost priority in the given scheme of things if the cause is one of protecting one of his most vital interests, and here the interest is survival as a dignified citizen, fully safe and secure from external aggression, as part of a demographic matrix where he is free to practise his own faith – religious, cultural, linguistic et al – without any fear. How dedicated will the indigenous battalion be, if it comes into being as proposed by the ULFA-P, towards the cause of the indigenous people of the State? What will be the level of such dedication? How uncompromising will it be?

These are questions that are in the realm of psychology and take us to the second point: the roots of greed are internal, and the solution to it too remains in the internal cosmos. Pompousness of an argument is one thing, its workability when it comes to man’s internal weaknesses quite another. There is no guarantee that every single indigenous man manning the proposed battalion will remain true to the chief objective behind the raising of such battalion – that of not surrendering his soul to pecuniary temptation, one of the most irresistible ones.
Why, we have had a whole lot of indigenous people in the higher echelons of the Assam Congress when the IM(DT) Act was being drafted and when it was eventually passed by Parliament without any in the party having to bother anything at all insofar as the destiny of the greater Assamese society was concerned. Where was their indigenous psychology at work – if one many use the words indigenous psychology? They too were sons of the soil, but they, in 1983, when that perverse, unconstitutional, anti-national immigration law was brought in, had no qualms at all about allowing an immigration law to be operational exclusively in just one State of the Indian Union, Assam, so that the State could be one of the most suitable living and breeding spaces on earth for illegal Bangladeshis who would eventually be the party’s most well-shielded vote bank to be sustained so for ever.

Therefore, for a second-line defence to become effective, and not to again prompt some other group to innovate a third-line defence too, it is rather time one saw the problem as it is – greed and selfishness as root. This reminds one of how the top ULFA leadership had been in Bangladesh for years together, safely shielded there and with no hesitation at all to get trained by and get assistance from the notorious ISI too as alleged time and again, just because it was greed and selfishness that rated far higher while their land of birth was being flooded and ragged by hostile aliens from the neighbouring country.

About the author

Ankur Kalita

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