At a time when the ULFA (Independent) has stepped up violent activities in Assam, it is intriguing that there should be a statement from the spiritual guru Ravi Shankar to the effect that the ULFA (Independent) commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah appears to be under tremendous pressure from Chi not to sit for talks with the government of India. Ravi Shankar is understood to have started a peace initiative with Paresh Baruah and has apparently held several rounds of telephonic talks with the ULFA C-in-C. And despite the pressure exerted by Chi on Paresh Baruah not to have talks with the government, Ravi Shankar is somehow still hopeful of Baruah agreeing to participate in negotiations. “I have told him that it is true that Chi can give him arms and ammunition, but it cannot assure him an honourable death,” Ravi Shankar claims to have told Paresh Baruah. “I feel Chi is keeping him under tremendous pressure because of which he is uble to come over ground,” he added. Ravi Shankar also claimed to have told Paresh Baruah that he was ageing and that there was no point in roaming in the jungles. He also claims to have warned Baruah that he might be left with no team in the jungles, and that there was no point in his running from pillar to post in an attempt to save his life and the lives of his colleagues. Ravi Shankar also claims that Paresh Baruah had told him that he was the only one who understood him. Ravi Shankar claims that the Art of Living founded by him has trained 350 surrendered members of the ULFA in organic farming in his ashram on the outskirts of Bengaluru and 150 others in his ashram in Pune.
While appreciating Ravi Shankar’s efforts to make Paresh Baruah abandon the path of militancy and violence, one cannot help being somewhat sceptical about the success of such efforts. There is also room for doubt about the extent of Chinese pressure on Paresh Baruah not to give up his militant ways and the ULFA commander’s ibility to ignore such pressure. Nor can one be entirely sanguine that Paresh Baruah will receive a hero’s welcome (as Ravi Shankar expects) if he were to come for talks now. After all, Paresh Baruah’s involvement in mindless killings of innocent women and children attending Independence Day celebrations is unlikely to be forgotten for a long time. Nor is it possible to accept Ravi Shankar’s claim that Paresh Baruah has given his life for the Assamese people. Those who have watched him closely over the years are quite convinced that Paresh Baruah’s militant activities have been geared largely to his own benefit. If anything, he has ruined the lives of a large number of youths by inducting them to mindless militancy on false promises.
Those who are looking for reasons as to why mindless militancy succeeds in States like Assam must begin to understand that in the regions where there has been no worthwhile development for decades, militancy can be turned into a sort of surrogate industry or business. A very high rate of unemployment provides the requisite soil for the growth of militancy with or without valid causes. To a certain extent, the State governments of the Northeast must accept responsibility for providing a rich soil for militancy to grow by failing to ensure the creation of employment opportunities for thousands of young men and women who remain without jobs for no fault of theirs. Once our State governments can be made to take responsibility for the very high rate of unemployment, mindless militancy will cease to be as glamorous as it is made out to be today. Spiritual gurus like Ravi Shankar would do better to motivate political executives to create productive job opportunities for the youth as expeditiously as possible so that militancy ceases to be a surrogate industry or business.