The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa fires salvo at AASU youth army

Guwahati, Dec. 23: Incarcerated Ulfa vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi has set the stage for a confrontation with the influential All Assam Students' Union (AASU) by voicing his outfit's opposition to the Asom Sena, a youth army that was formed last week ostensibly to deal with 'enemies of the Assamese people in a democratic manner'.

The Ulfa leader told the media at a designated Tada court, where he was produced today, that taking up 'bows and arrows' and creating 'senas' would not solve any problem. He said any such move would only divide various ethnic communities of the state. 'Instead of forming Asom Sena, Lachit Sena, this sena and that sena, organisations like the AASU should unite people to fight in a democratic manner for fulfilment of their aspirations.'

Pradip is believed to be still in touch with the Ulfa leadership through various channels, including sympathisers who regularly visit him in jail.

On why the outfit was not following the democratic path if it was against the idea of launching an army of vigilantes, the vice-chairman said it would be improper to equate the Asom Sena with an organisation that had been continuing an armed movement for over two decades. 'Our case is different,' he said.

The salvo at the AASU, which floated the Asom Sena at a convention in Dibrugarh, has the potential to increase friction between the militant group and the students' union.

Once criticised for being soft on the Ulfa, the AASU has of late been critical of the outfit for not speaking out against continued illegal migration from Bangladesh simply because its leaders were based in that country.

On the possibility of talks with Delhi, Pradip said the government should 'sincerely' come forward for negotiations with the outfit, accepting the fact that any dialogue has to address the issue of Assam's sovereignty.

'It is the core issue. Our chairman (Arabinda Rajkhowa) and commander-in-chief (Paresh Barua) have made it very clear that there will be no discussions by isolating the issue,' he said.

Pradip said the people of Assam should pressure Delhi into discussing 'sovereignty' with the Ulfa leadership.

Ulfa ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain, who was also produced in court, said the question of sovereignty was 'non-negotiable as Assam was never a part of India'.

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