Dec. 28: On the run in Bhutan, Indian militants have made a dramatic appeal to China to provide “safe passage” and “temporary shelter”.
“At this moment, they (the cadre) have no other option but to enter the territory of the People’s Republic of China extra-legally to save their lives, negotiating sub-zero temperature and starvation.… We would like to request you and your people to permit them safe passage to your territory and temporary shelter necessary for their survival,” said a joint appeal signed by Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa.
The appeal was faxed to the “Chairman of the People’s Republic of China” on Thursday, but released to the press today through e-mail. China does not have a chairman. Its most powerful leader now is Hu Jintao, who is not only the President of the country but also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China.
Besides Rajkhowa, the appeal is signed by leaders of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) – all bearing the brunt of the Bhutan flushout — and the Arunachal Dragon Force, a little-known outfit.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi told The Telegraph tonight: “The state government will request the Centre to ensure that the militants are not patronised by any foreign country.”
“Being a friendly nation, I don’t see any reason why China will heed their appeal,” Gogoi added.
With all their camps in Bhutan busted, the Ulfa, the NDFB and the KLO have suffered heavy losses since the Royal Bhutan Army launched Operation All Clear on December 15. Some of the top Ulfa leaders, including its founder member Bhimkanta Buragohain and publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, have been captured and handed over to Indian authorities.
Rajkhowa said the people of the Northeast were yearning to establish an identity “similar to the People’s Republic of China”.
Stating that the rebels have been forced to retreat in the face of “a massive military attack of the joint Indo-Bhutan forces” which included air strikes, the Ulfa chairman appealed to the communist country “to show your traditional kindness and great revolutionary zeal to our brothers-in-arms in this moment of exigency”.
The appeal lends credibility to claims by the Indian Army that the rebels have been forced to move towards the north to escape the advancing Royal Bhutan Army.
Referring to the fourth signatory — the Arunachal Dragon Force — police said the Ulfa and the NDFB have forged close ties with the outfit for logistical support.
Even before the Bhutan operations began, the Ulfa and the NDFB set up bases in Changlang and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh with the help of the local outfit.
In the sixties, Naga leader Th. Muivah had led a group of rebels through inhospitable terrain and Myanmar to reach China’s Yunan province. His trip — referred to as the “second long march” after Mao Zedong’s legendary journey — was the first attempt by a Northeast group to establish contact with China and seek support for its armed struggle.
In Delhi, minister of state for home I.D. Swami turned down the Ulfa’s offer for conditional talks through a neutral mediator on its demand for sovereignty.