Dynamics of Unending Violence in Assam

Dinesh Kotwal, Research Fellow, IDSA

 

The audacious killing of the Assam Forest and PWD Minister Nagen Sarma by blowing up his convoy on February 27,1 2000, has once again underlined the precarious situation that exists in Assam. Close on the heels of this killing, the insurgents made an abortive attack on the life of the Minister for Veterinary services and Power on March 5 in Sibsagar district. Clearly, these two incidents only highlight that political violence is on the upswing in the state and needs to be understood in the context of the prevailing scenario in the area.

Essentially, insurgency through acts of terrorism aims to disrupt the prevalent political order and establish a new one. In order to achieve this objective, the insurgents invariably kill ordinary citizens because the state is unable to guarantee their protection against such anti-national elements. These ordinary citizens are therefore 'soft' targets unlike the ministers and other VIPs who are adequately guarded and are deemed as 'hard' targets by the militants.

As long as the ULFA hit the common citizen there was a 'mass' orientation to the insurgency. However, the recent wave of attacks against VIPs or 'hard' targets is an attempt to alter the nature of insurgency, which has now assumed a 'class' character. Considering that the militants have now been able to breech VIP security only serves to boost the ULFA cadre's morale and in turn demoralises the security forces and the local population.

Scope of Study

This paper analyses the evolution of Assam politics during the last two decades in order to bring out the linkages between the political parties and the insurgents, which led to the rise of the ULFA and its transformation from a youth organisation into a militant group. It also examines the external element in this nexus, namely the role of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

What is ULFA

The United Liberation Front of Asom was founded on April 7, 1979 at the Rang Ghar pavillion of the Ahom Kings located in the Sibsagar district of upper Assam.2 Presently, it is active in Assam, Meghalaya and upper Arunachal Pradesh. It is skilled in the art of extortion, kidnapping, intimidation of common citizens and political murders. It operates from its bases in Southern Bhutan and Bangladesh.3 It is also part of various umbrella organisations of secessionist groups like Indo-Burma Revolutionary Front (IBRF). Even after launching of two major army operations (Ops-Bajrang and Ops-Rhino) and the setting up of the United Civil Military Command,4 the ULFA continues to haunt the decision-makers in Guwahati and Delhi.

Though, the gory acts of ULFA hark back to medieval bigotism, its political slogan and the command structure is embedded in modernity. Presently the command structure of ULFA is as follow5:

Arvind Rajkhowa — Commander-in-Chief

Pradeep Gogoi — Vice Chairman

Paresh Barua — Chairman

Anup Chetia — General Secretary (Under arrest in Bangladesh)

Chittaranjan Barua — Finance Secretary

Sasadhar Chaudhary — Foreign Secretary

Matinga Daimari — Publicity Secretary

Organisation

ULFA has a three tier organisation namely (i) Central Unit, (ii) District Units and (iii) Anchalik Units. Each unit consists of a civil and military wing. At the Central level, the civil wing is headed by a Chairman and military wing by a Commander-in-Chief. Each of the district units is led by district President/district Commander respectively. A district is further divided into 'Anchals' which comprise a number of villages headed by an 'Anchalik President'. For operational purposes, ULFA has divided entire Assam into three zones. Each zones has further been divided into four 'regions'. Each zone has a seven member committee to look after the affairs of the zone. The three ULFA zones are:

(i) East Zone—Lakhimpur, Jhorhat, Golaghat, Sibsaher, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia Districts.

(ii) Central Zone—Sonitpur, Darrang, Morigaon, Naogaon, Karbi Anglong and east Kamrup Districts.

(iii) West Zone—Barpeta, West Kamrup, Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Nalbari and Districts.

The armed wing of ULFA has been organised on a battalion pattern and is placed under central command and the armed cadres are posted to different zones/regions on requirement basis. The female insurgents are exempted from active work after their marriage.

Objective of ULFA

The ULFA believes that Assam was historically never a part of India, nor had it any relationship with ancient India, except that it was brought under a unified stage by the Hindu and Muslim rulers at various points of time in history. The Assamese nationality rather grew in isolation, and the people of Assam are proud of having their historic, racial, ethnic and cultural heritage, which is distinct from other parts of India. It was only on February 24, 1826, that Assam was annexed by the British by virtue of the Treaty of Yandabu6, entered into with the government of Burma (presently Myanmar) and was brought under unified Indian administration. Subsequently, Assam became a part of the present India, being constituted by the India Independence Act of 1947.

In ULFA's opinion, even after the transfer of power in 1947, the territory of Assam remained geographically separate, and was artifically bridged with mainland India by a narrow strip of land and an outdated railway system. It has been the contention of ULFA that the territory of Assam is prima facie self governing as it is both geographically separate and ethnically distinct from the country administering it. Moreover, it contends that in the name of governance, in Assam the Indian state created a situation where law and facts are at conflict, in as much as there is a conflict between practice and profession. Various laws and constitutional bindings with regard to migration of foreigners have been rendered inapplicable in Assam encouraging the illegal influx of migrants in millions from neighbouring Bangaldesh, which has destroyed the distinct ethnic character of Assam.7 Therefore, as one ULFA publication explains: "to create an exploitation-free society our next step (must) be a national war of liberation…We have no alternative to armed revolution.8 The resolutions of the ULFA are to 'solve' the Assam problem by forming a firm United Front and taking necessary steps to execute it. The ambitious vision of this Front is as follows:

(a) Unity of the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations and nationalities all over the world.

(b) Joint united programmes of national liberation struggles with the class struggle of the working class people inside the colonial countries.

(c) To include in this front the genuine communist parties of the countries where capitalism has been given warm welcome in the name of socialist rule.

The ULFA aims at forming an 'independent' Assam through armed struggle against so called 'the colonial rulers in Delhi'.9 It aims at the formation of the United Front jointly with other insurgent outfits with the following objectives.10

(a) United Front inside the motherland (Unity of national liberation struggles of all the indigenous nations and nationalities of Assam).

(b) Unity taking northeastern region as the base (for historical, geographical, political reasons).

(c) United Front taking India as the base (those nations that oppose world colonialism, seek genuine liberation of the people, and recognise the Indian State machinery as their enemy).

(d) Taking the world as a whole: i. Support to the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations and nationalities all over the world. ii. Establishing contact with the genuine communist parties that seek change of the political system inside their countries, where capitalism is being tried to be instituted in the name of socialist rule.

Rise of ULFA

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) emerged out of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) agitation launched in 1979 against the unabated influx of foreigners from East Pakistan/Bangladesh. This agitation kept the state on the boil for the next six years. Even as AASU was organising 'street' protests in Assam, another group of committed and radical youths raised the ULFA on April 7, 1979. The majority of the members of this group had in one or the other capacity worked for the Asom Jatiyatabandi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJPCP), which looked after the welfare of the youth of the state. The outfit remained dormant till 1986, except recruiting the majority of its cadre between late 1983 to early 1984.

The Assam Accord was signed in 1985 and the newly formed Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) swept to power giving hope to the people of a new era of prosperity and stability. Most of the ULFA leaders had known the AGP ministers since the agitation days. For the ULFA, the AGP's coming to power was like having a whole lot of sympathisers in the government.

The problems of AGP compounded with the rise of ULFA, which started controlling the state administration. Political leaders were aware about the activities of the ULFA cadre in 1986 but made no efforts to check them. Many ascribe the rise of ULFA to 'the misrule' of the AGP government (1985-1990). The ruling political class was seen as too soft on the outfit. They had political compulsions and saw ULFA as their 'second line of defence'.11 The police department, especially at a functional level (police station) was full of ULFA sympathisers. Thus, police officials at the district level were reluctant to act on their own lest they earn the ire both of the ULFA and the ruling politicians. For instance, police and forest officials in both Tinsukhia and Dibrugarh districts were aware about the ULFA establishing camps in Lakhipather and Saraipung forests and yet no one dared to report to Dispur.12

The deteriorating law and order in the state forced the Centre to intervene finally and it imposed "Presidents Rule" in 1990. Subodh Kant Sahay, then Minister of State for Home of the Union Government commented about the state government: "The whole state machinery is with the ULFA"13. The state government was dismissed and ULFA was banned on November 27, 1990. On November 28, 1990, 'Operation Bajrang' was launched by the army. The first camp that was struck was at Lakhipatha, a short distance from both Digboi and Dibrugarh. However, the ULFA had been tipped off more than a week earlier of the possibility of an army assault.14 The soldiers found a deserted camp.

The elections of 1991 were completed courtesy of ULFA, despite dithering by those entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the election. Though ULFA did not sponsor any candidate, as it did not believe in Indian democracy, it's spectre overshadowed campaigning in Assam. Regional parties and groups virtually competed with each other to endear themselves to the ULFA by making strident demands for autonomy. The AGP manifesto sought an amendment to the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution so that the states could be vested with residuary powers barring defence, foreign affairs, currency and communication. It also called for more powers to the state, so that they could negotiate directly with international agencies. The other regional parties more or less echoed the ULFA's views on the right to self-determination.

Though ULFA is the result of the AGP government's acts of omission and commission yet in the May 1991 elections, the ULFA also covertly supported the Congress (I) with the assurance of non-interference in the election process, provided the government withdrew the Army from its operation.15 On the formation of the Congress government in June 1991, amnesty was accorded to the arrested ULFA cadres. The government undid what the army and police had achieved. It released more than 400 imprisoned ULFA men.16 The ULFA leaders who were released under amnesty and were sent to Bangladesh to prevail upon the hardcore activists, themselves never returned and instead issued a statement from Bangladesh calling for the renewal of the armed struggle.17 The end result was that the ULFA got a breather and returned as a rejuvenated outfit.

Political Motives

The possibility of a negotiated settlement with the ULFA became bright in the early nineties and at one point of time the stage for such a settlement was almost ready. It is widely believed that the political leadership sabotaged the move only to ensure that any settlement would mean the ouster of their government from power. The problem in Assam has arisen due to the politician-insurgent nexus against the state and together the two professionals prosper at the tax payers expense. In the case of the murder of a Lok Sabha candidate from Dhubri constituency, it is not clear whether he met the insurgents to persuade the ULFA to help him in the electoral battle. However, according to a statement issued by the Assam government the candidate had attended a pre-arranged meeting with certain militants at Bilasipara on September 20, 1999. Such clandestine meetings of politicians with the representatives of militant outfits are by no means rare. But this raises a question: should the political parties allow their candidates to have secret dealings with the militant outfits?18

The track record of Indian politics both at the Centre and states has shown a proclivity to prioritise a political party's interests over national interests. Over the years the two sets of interests have often been considered synonymous with each other. While political interests do not consider the nature and dimensions of damage to national security, the national interest cannot endlessly afford to ignore such an attitude on the part of political parties.

Achievements and Sacrifices—Security Forces

Almost a decade after many of them were granted amnesty without much thought, the ULFA militants continue to bleed the northeastern states. The Assam police have gone on record to claim a decline in terrorist-related violence in the last few years. But while there were 326 cases of extremist related violence in 1996, the figure rose up to 415 in 1997 and peaked at 716 in 1998 only to reduce to 383 in 1999. In the past three years, security forces have killed 565 insurgents in encounters, while 913 surrendered with weapons in the last two years and 1402 and 1423 were arrested during the same period.19

In the last five years the roll of honour of security personnel killed in counter-insurgency operations comprises 333 personnel from the state, central para-military organisations and the army. This figure includes 113 Assam police constables, 32 army soldiers, 32 CRPF constables, 14 BSF sepoys, seven CISF constables and 14 other security personnel.20 Despite such a large sacrifice of lives, the law and order situation still remains unfavourable for the government to effectively assert its writ in the state. Though the scale of violence has reduced numerically, the situation on the ground remains the same.

New Horizons for ISI

A myopic vision of the political parties both at the Centre and the state has created the turbulent situation in Asasm and other northeastern states. A study carried out by some Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials titled "Understanding Ethnic Unrest in Indian Periphery—1994", asserts that political parties are responsible for fuelling ethnic unrest in the northeast. The paper states, "The central leadership of mainstream political parties has manipulated ethnic symbols. The frequent imposition of President's rule has also reinforced the imperialist image of the Centre. The political bosses have failed to establish psycho-emotional links with the historically insulated population. The influx of outsiders has changed the demographic pattern and reduced the local population to a minority. External material and moral support has sustained ethnic movements in border areas".21

In 1969, when the CM of Assam intensified the drive for the deportation of foreigners, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind raised the cry of harassment of the minority community in the name of deportation of Pakistani infiltrators. At the behest of a Muslim Union Cabinet Minister, the Union Home Minister addressed a communication to the Chief Minister to "go slow" in the matter. The State Cabinet met at Shillong on June 12, 1969, where communication from Union HM was read and a decision taken to wind up all the foreigner tribunals and transfer all cases pending against infiltrators to ordinary courts of law. This is the case where the State Government looked the other side, to favour a major political party in vote bank politics. In July 1960 the following instructions were issued by the Central Government: "those (Pakistanis) who have been staying without travel documents for a long time should not normally be disturbed, but such of those as are found security risks and regarding whose Pakistan nationality there is no doubt, may be served with orders under section 3 (23) of the Foreigners Act, 1946". Consequently by 1971, Assam found itself burdened with as many as 413,029 immigrants.22

The Assam Governor in his report to the President of India in December 1998 has highlighted the problem of the influx of Muslims from across the border.23 The report says, "In 1970, the population of East Pakistan was 7.5 crores but in 1974 it had come down to 7.14. On the basis of 3.1 per cent annual growth rate of the period, the population in 1974 should have been 7.7 crore. The shortfall of 6 million people can be explained only by large scale migration." The influx has adversely affected Assam and it's population has risen from 24.68 per cent in 1951 to 28.42 per cent in 1991. As per the 1991 census, four districts (Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Haikandi) have become Muslim majority areas. Two more districts (Nowgaon and Karimganj) should have become so by 1998 and one district (Morgaon) is fast approaching this position. Mr Sinha has also commented about the attitude of the politicians in his report by saying, "political parties have been underplaying the grave importance of this problem and have been viewing it as something affecting only the Assamese people. Thus an issue of great concern for national security has been made into a partisan affair and a matter of vote-bank". Earlier, when a senior army officer reportedly made an interesting disclosure on July 31, '99 that "some madrassas (religious schools) in Assam were helping growing of separatists forces with the help of ISI",24 a hue and cry was raised by some Muslim leaders. The Chief Minister, Assam also agreed with the army officer and was reported to have stated "one or two such schools and mosques may have been harbouring militants".25 But the Chief Minister stirred a hornet's nest with this statement. These statements were decried and swiftly denied by the state Irrigation Minister and president of United People's Party of Assam on August 3, '99: "some communal elements are making false propaganda against the madrassas to create fear in the minds of the Muslims on the eve of election".26

In fact the problem is not madrasas but the radicalism and separatism associated with most of them. The influx of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan/Bangladesh and growth of madrasas have created a peculiar situation in Assam, which is being exploited by the infamous ISI.27 India has been a victim of secession-oriented terrorism, supported aggressively by Pakistan—a country that defines its identity in terms of negating and destroying India. The Pakistani objective is clearly to keep India in a continuous state of destabilisation,28 in a state of "war with itself". For this the ISI with the help of Muslim fundamentalists, many of whom are the product of some of these madrasas29 are blowing up pipelines and railway tracks in Assam. Belatedly though the US State Department has accepted the involvement of ISI in fomenting extremist violence in India's northeast. The high ranking State Department official has been quoted in Washington Times as saying: "We believe the ISI is helping the militants in Assam".30

The involvement of Pakistan in northeastern India goes back to the early 60's. The late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Z.A. Bhutto wrote about the geo-political aims of Pakistan in 1968 in his book. "The Myth of Independence" where he elaborated31 that:

"It would be wrong to think that Kashmir is the only dispute that divides India and Pakistan, though it is undoubtedly the most significant…One at least is nearly as important as the Kashmir dispute…that of Assam and some districts of India, adjacent to East Pakistan. To these East Pakistan has very good claims, which should not have been allowed to remain quiescent".

Tasks were clearly specified to ISI during the nascent stage of the insurgency in the northeast. The Assam Police claimed to have arrested four hardcore ISI functionaries in Guwahati on August 7, 1999. It was disclosed by them that the ISI had plans to train 10,000 people in Assam for jihad to "liberate" Assam and establish an Islamic country comprising the territory of the state and certain other parts of northeastern India.32 If Pakistan has designs to create an Islamic country out of the northeastern states, it is because of bad governance, and vote bank politics to remain in power.

In the given political environment where protection of the 'vote bank' is more important than national security, no security force can match the challenge thrown by the ISI. The ISI is able to recruit new agents, merge them with the local population, activate its sleeping agents on requirement basis, and carry out sabotage activities wherever and whenever it feels like. This favourable situation for ISI has emerged over the years mainly due to the unabated influx of illegal immigrants over the years from East Pakistan/Bangladesh.

Conclusion

Mr. Raj Mohan Gandhi visited the northeast in December 1999 and observed: "politicians and bureaucrats in the North-East were viewed as corrupt and solely self-serving, and there was a tendency in several to trace all evil to one or two individuals in power".34 Earlier, the Union Home Ministry itself came out with a "show cause" notice of sorts questioning the northeastern governments performance. The Union Government has pointed to the seven sisters of 'mismanagement' of Rs. 50,000 crore funds given for development between 1990-1998 to these states. Assam alone accounts for a net sanction of Rs. 15,637 crores out of the gross sanctioned amount of Rs. 21,163 crores.35

The observation of Mr. Gandhi and questioning by the Union Home Ministry on utilisation of sanctioned amounts points to maladministration and gross abuse of funds earmarked for development. The Prime Minister during a visit to the northeastern states on January 21, 2000 emphasised that increased funding alone could not solve the economic and social problems of the region. It was categorically stated by the PM that "one such issue is that large sums of money don't find their way to the projects for which they are intended".36 The increase in the outlay of the Ninth plan by over Rs. 10,000 crores is in no way going to mitigate the problems of the people of the region, unless and until there is determination on the part of political parties to focus on socio-economic development. Also, there is need to activate local self-governments like the district councils and panchayats to ensure that the development funds reach the people.

All those who have a vested interest in keeping the State bleeding are perpetrating the violence in Assam. The insurgency is no more against the foreigners, but has become an industry for the militants. If socio-economic development has to be brought in and the security environment improved upon, then the nexus between the politicians and insurgents has to be broken. But it is easier said then done. Only a strong determination on the part of political parties to overcome their narrow goals in the interest of the nation's integrity can restore normalcy in Assam and other parts of its region.

Thus two sets of problems are emerging in Assam: political and administrative malaise and ISI, which injects separatism through disaffected elements of society. These two pose a challenge to the Indian democratic process. The 'vote bank' politics has degenerated the system to such an extent that political parties have no other agenda than to grab power by any permutation or combination. The violence perpetrated by the insurgents can be countered but rectification of democratic process has to come from within. As long as political expediency takes precedence over national interest, the Assam cauldron will continue to simmer.

 

NOTES

1. Late Sarma, was the general secretary of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and a vital functionary in the party. This was the third attempt on a minister's life in the ULFA stronghold of Nalbari district since 1996. Meanwhile, in a press statement ULFA said: "Sarma was punished for joining hands with the Indian State machinery and for being a traitor of the Assamese nation." The Asian Age, February 29, 2000. Zoii Nath Sharam, another AGP minister escaped a daring attack by ULFA militants during the run-up to the Lok-Sabha polls last year. In 1996, the convoy of Congress Minister Bhumidhar Barman near Nalbari town was ambushed. Barman escaped miraculously but five of his security men were killed. The Bharatiya Janta Party candidate for Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency was abducted and ruthlessly murdered by ULFA activists on September 20, 1999.

2. Verghese; B.G., India's Northeast Resurgent, (Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1997), p. 57.

3. The Observer, "Bhutan turning safe haven for North-East ultras", September 5, 1997.

4. Mahanta is a party to the setting up of a unified command to fight extremists, but is in fact helpless. The ULFA has grown too big for its boots. It is believed to have extorted about Rs. 1,000 crore over the years, and deposited it in Bangladesh. Thus our neighbour has a vested interest in the continued unrest in Assam. Then some of the militants have taken sanctuary in Bhutan. The Pioneer, January 23, 1998.

5. Arvind Rajkhowa has set up a number of spurious but profitable companies in Dhaka, Mymenshingh, Narsingdi and Sylet, like media consultancies, soft drinks manufacturing, grocery shops, drugs stores, poultry farms, swank hotels, private clinics and schools. These establishments are being run partially on subscriptions from tea gardens in Assam and partially from donor agencies, The Economic Times, "Bangladesh and Myanmar aid ULFA", November 5, 1998.

6. Kumar, B.B., Trends of British Annexation of Northeast India, (Omsons Publications, 1994), p. 6.

7. The ULFA was the first to raise the cry of a sovereign Assam in April 1979. ULFA put forward two arguments: Assam was not a part of India at any point of time and the Indian government has been exploiting Assams rich and natural resources since the time of British Raj without conferring corresponding benefits on the Assamese people. The Telegraph, "Language of rough justice", December 30, 1997.

8. Verghese, n. 2, p. 57.

9. Gurmukh Singh, "The Militants Progress," The Sunday Times, September 28, 1997.

10. The demand for separation of ULFA stems from the 1979 Assam agitation against the foreigners. McCord & McCord has analysed the separatism demand and spelt out eight factors for the same:

a) When some group has a differential access to power.

b) Uneven economic development that encourages the population of some regions to aspire to the affluence enjoyed by others also plays a role in the same separatist movement.

c) If a group has been only partially assimilated into the mainstream and dominant society finds its traditional culture dying.

d) Requires leadership that can mobilise a population behind a cause. At times the cause may have roots in mythic rather than objective reality.

e) Must create the belief that the very survival of the group requires a radical solution, and that no other alternatives exist.

f) When a tradition of hatred has been nourished for centuries and has been complemented by the divisive social, economic, political or ethnic lines, separatism blossoms.

g) When a political centre arrogates to itself the greatest part of political power, but allows some voices of discontent from ethnic groups, then the probability arises that a cry for separatism will be raised.

h) The relationship between the direction of economic growth and the legitimacy granted to them in power is positive.

Refer McCord, Separatist Movement, in Raymond L. Hall, Ethnic Autonomy-Comparative Dynamics, America's, Europe & the Developing World, (New York: Pergamon Press, 1979).

In the case of Assam insurgency, many of the above attributes fit into it. The Assamese between 1960 to 1972 have agitated for the acceptance of their language followed by demands for "jobs only for the sons of the soil". From 1979 to 1985 they fought to expel 'foreigners from the state'. The Assamese in their own land were marginalised by the outsiders in all the fields' economic activity. Business and jobs both in private and government were controlled by the outsiders. The Assamese had no option other than to raise the banner of revolt against their exploitation. However, slowly the agitation turned to violence and ULFA took control of it.

11. Singh, n. 9.

12. Former Assam Home Minister Bhrigu Kumar Phukan in his interview to The Economic Times, January 11, 1991, admitted that he had documentary evidence about the AGPs links with ULFA boys. "Many colleagues often urged me not to take action against the arrested ULFA boys", he said. As quoted by Chhabra: K.M.L. Assam Challenge, p. 168.

13. Hazarika Sanjoy, Strangers of the Mist, (Penguin Books, 1995) p. 190.

14. Ibid.

15. The withdrawal of the army gave ULFA the breathing space that it needed badly. It availed the opportunity in the preceding weeks to reestablish links with its cadres, boost the morale of its sympathizers and chalked out a new strategy to take on the state and the central governments.

16. On July 12, 1991, the state government released eleven of the "wanted" insurgents as part of a general amnesty that freed a total 400 ULFA cadre from prison. Prakash Singh, Director-General of Police urged against the release but was overruled. The Army was shocked and furious.

17. Arobindo Rajkhowa, Anup Chetia, and Pradeep Gogoi had gone to Bangladesh on the pretext of persuading Paresh Baruah and his followers to join the peace process.

18. A close observation of the contemporary political situation in Tripura reveals the cobweb of insurgent activities and electoral politics. It has been alleged that the genocide committed by the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) activists before the 1988 assembly election at the behest of the Congress (I) Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) combined opposition paved the way for the latter to gain power. Similarly, the massacre committed by the All Tripura Tribal Force (ATTF) activists on the eve of the 1993 election is believed to have helped the CPI (M) led left Front to make a comeback to power.

19. The Sentinel, "Safe-Passage offer deadline extended till January 17," January 4, 2000.

20. Ibid.

21. Pakem, B, Insurgency in Northeast India, p. 120.

22. Sarin, V.I.K, India's North-East in Flames, (Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., 1980) p. 33.

23. The Pioneer, February 5, 1999.

24. The Hindustan Times, "Army's wake-up call behind arrest of ISI operatives", August 11, 1999.

25. The Hindustan Times, "ISI activity in madrasas sparks row in Assam", August 23, 1999.

26. Ibid.

27. Home Minister L.K. Advani's abortive White Paper on ISI shows that its primary area of interest is the northeast, and the cosy relationship it has established with the ULFA. Mr Advani was horrified at the extent of the agency's penetration into the ULFA and its ominous consequences for the neglected northeast. In the White Paper details of payments of large sums of money by the ULFA to the ISI are revealed. ULFA money went into several bank accounts in Bangladesh, the Isle of Man and Sri Lanka in return for training and weapons. The payments are spread over the last six years and show sharp up-swing in the last two years. A conservative estimate would put the ISI-ULFA transactions at around Rs. 650 crore, and this is likley to go up as the ISI is looking to sharply up the ante in the northeast, The Indian Express, "Pakistan's real ally: the ULFA", September 26, 1999.

28. The Hindustan Times, "PM lambasts Pak for aiding N-E insurgents", January 22, 2000.

29. ISI under a new game-plan has been trying to establish its bases in the Muslim dominated areas in Hyderabad, western Uttar Pradesh, north Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu besides Mumbai. The Hindu, "Muslim-dominated areas new haven for ISI," August 23, 1999.

30. The Hindustan Times, "ISI meddling in India's North-East, says US official", March 11, 2000.

31. Shukla, B.P., What Ails India's North-East, Suruchi Sahitya (New Delhi: 1980) p. 22.

32. The Deccan Herald, "Lid blown off ISI 'jihad' plot in Assam', August 16, 1999.

33. Rajmohan Gandhi, "The Northeast", The Hindu, January 15, 2000.

34. Chitra Venkataraman, "The Story of Neglected 'Seven Sisters," The Sentinel, Guwahati, February 13, 2000.

35. n. 28.