Guwahati/Kokrajhar, Sept. 18: The tottering peace process with Ulfa is likely to receive yet another setback with the outfit allegedly slapping a Rs 1 crore demand on a tea garden in Assam’s Baksa district.
Disclosing this today, a senior police official of the district said Ulfa had served the extortion note to Nagrijuli tea estate about a fortnight ago.
The letter was signed by Hira Sarania, self-styled commanding officer of the outfit’s 709 battalion. One of four battalions floated by the outfit to carry out its armed operations, it is active in Upper and Lower Assam.
The revelation comes two days before the cessation of hostilities by security forces ends on Wednesday. The five-day extension is the third since the “cessation of hostilities” by Delhi and the outfit. “The extortion note is really shocking because it has come during the suspension of hostilities and at a time when Ulfa is seeking a level playing field before formal talks can get under way and when they want their jailed leaders released. If they can go on an extortion/intimidation spree while seeking a level playing field, then it is clearly a violation of goodwill gesture and the situation needs to be reviewed in totality. It is not only the tea garden. Extortion notes have also been served on Guwahati-based businessmen,” a senior official at the police headquarters here said.
The official was referring to the latest issue of Freedom, the outfit’s mouthpiece, wherein it had asked Delhi to create a a proper atmosphere for direct talks to begin.
The proscribed outfit had demanded the release of jailed members of its central committee and exact information about its activists who went missing during the Indo-Bhutan military operations.
“They (the government of India) must desist from spreading rumours about the Ulfa. Only then would a level playing field be created,” the outfit had further claimed.
The latest development is bound to figure on the agenda whenever mandarins of the Union home ministry take stock of the ongoing suspension of hostilities. Union home secretary V.K. Duggal had made it clear that the suspension of hostilities may be revoked if Ulfa indulges in any unlawful activity.
“We send a daily report to the Centre. There is nothing specific,” the official added, when asked whether the matter has been brought to the notice of the Centre.
A case (number 112/2006) was registered under Section 384 read with Section 10/13 of the UAP Act with Tamulpur police station after the management of Nagrijuli tea estate moved the police on August 29.
Police sources said investigations are on and adequate security has been provided to the garden staff.
They said two police sections, comprising around 12 armed personnel each, have been deployed at sensitive spots in and around the garden which is not exactly in the “pink of health.”
The tea estate used to fall in Nalbari district, once a Ulfa hotbed, before Baksa was carved out under the new Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) set-up.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi was briefed about the situation at a meeting on internal security this evening. Dispur was, however, tightlipped about the meeting.