21 June, 2021

Insurgent Warms Up To New CM

Peace threatens to erupt in Assam—on the back of a budding chumminess between new CM Himanta and underground ULFA commander Paresh Barua. Can the devil in the detail be tamed?

Mutual Admiration?
Barua and Sarma
Insurgent Warms Up To New CM

One of the most elusive and reclusive insurgent leaders in India could ­potentially agree to talk with the government to end a four-decade-long insurgency in Assam. Paresh Barua, commander of the last remaining underground Ulfa faction, is warming up to peace overtures from chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

It all started on May 10 when, addressing a press conference, Sarma asked the Ulfa (Independent)’s ‘commander-­in-chief’ to join the peace process. Barua responded within five days, declaring a unilateral ceasefire for three months from May 15, but he attributed the decision to the Covid situation in the state. The Ulfa, then undivided, had declared a ceasefire in 2005, too, but the peace process never took off to end successfully.

This summer’s truce came at a time when the outfit was holding ONGC ­official Ritul Saikia hostage. He was abducted on April 21. Sarma followed up the appeal—not as a chief minister, but as an Assamese youth (as he would say)—to free Saikia. Barua obliged almost instantaneously. All...

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