By M.V. Kamath
After his one-hour one-to-one meeting with President Musharraf, India'sPrime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh made a highly optimistic statement. ?I feel confident,? he said, ?that despite the difficulties on the way, I and President Musharraf will succeed in writing a new chapter between our two countries. I sincerely believe today is a historic day. We have made a new beginning.? Brave words.
Not even a month passed before the ISI-sponsored and financially-supported terrorist groups in the north-east made one more attempt at spreading murder and mayhem in the region. A caller, identifying himself as ULFA'scommander-in-chief, Paresh Barua told a local Assamese daily that his outfit was responsible for the blasts in five different places in Assam in response to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi'scall for a truce. A question arises: During his talks with Musharraf did Dr Singh discuss the ISI'srole in Bangladesh and India'snorth-east? It is common knowledge that Bangladesh has become a haven for terrorist organisations and that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) which has set up its base in Bangladesh has the active support of the ISI and the Directorate General of Field Intelligence (DGFI) of Bangladesh.
In his book Terror sans Frontiers, Jaideep Saikia, who has done extensive study of militancy in India'snorth-east, states, ?The ISI had organised training for the ULFA cadres in association with the Directorate General of Field Intelligence at a camp located 35 kilometres west of the Karnaphulli hydro-electric project in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.? The ISI has reportedly also imparted specialised training to 48 ULFA cadres in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir along with the Muslim United Liberation Front (MULT) of Assam. The ULFA along with the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), another terrorist organisation, have also reportedly set up camps in Jhapa, Tapegung and Panchthar in eastern Nepal. Indian intelligence sources have also discovered links between ULFA and the Sipahi-e-Saheba of Kabul, Afghanistan which is funding the outfit for its training programme in camps in Halowaghat in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. And according to the Indian army operating in Assam, ULFA has been involved in passing of information of movement of Indian troops to and from Assam to the ISI.
According to Saikia, there are at present as many as 155 militant camps in Bangladesh which train and house militants from north-east India. Bangladesh is lying through its teeth. It is denying that it is giving shelter to ULFA leaders when Indian intelligence sources have information that ULFA's?commander-in-chief? Paresh Barua resides in a house adjacent to the Egyptian Embassy in Dhaka belonging to a legislator of the Jatiya Party and is also known to stay in Old Dhaka'sSegun Bagicha besides having a ?safe house? in Dhaka'sMirpur cantonment. The aim of ULFA is to help establish a Brihot Bangladesh (Greater Bangladesh) by taking over Assam peacefully if possible, and by terrorisation when considered necessary.
The technique is to send Muslim Bangladeshis into Assam surreptitiously and enable them to set up homes there so that gradually, Assam becomes a Muslim-majority state. Already, four geo-strategically-positioned districts of Assam have turned into Muslim-majority districts and five others have more than 35 per cent Muslim population. In a report to the Government of India, a former Governor of Assam, Lt. General S.K. Sinha made the point that ?as a result of the population movement from Bangladesh, the spectre looms large of the indigenous people of Assam being reduced to a minority in their home state with their cultural survival in jeopardy, their political control weakened and their employment opportunities undermined.?
It is in this context that the role of ULFA must be seen. ULFA wants Assam to secede from India and become part of Greater Bangladesh, and reportedly it is also regularly holding classes for those Bangladeshis who want to migrate illegally into Assam, in Assamese. In the face of all this, the silence of the Government of India is shocking. According to the Home Ministry'sown sources there are 5.4 million illegal immigrants (from Bangladesh) in West Bengal, 4 million in Assam, 8 million in Tripura, 0.5 million in Bihar, 0.5 million in Rajasthan, an equal number in Maharashtra and 0.3 million even in Delhi. And they apparently have the backing of ULFA whose policies and actions today are ?wholly determined by the ISI and the DGFI.? What is the Government of India doing in the face of these known facts?
A revolution is taking place in Bangladesh that is threatening trouble not only for the region but for all India if left unchallenged. Islamic fundamentalism, religious intolerance, militant groups with links to international terrorist groups, a sadistic military with ties to the militants, the mushrooming of madrasas, combined with middle-class apathy and poverty are combining to make Bangladesh into a time-bomb. When the nation should be alerted, it is being lulled into inaction by Delhi certifying that Musharraf is a man it can do business with.
Truly India is turning out to be a gullible nation which is incapable of learning from past experiences. Every known fact points to a sinister conspiracy being hatched by Pakistan'sISI to disturb the peace in India'snorth-east and thereby destabilise the nation before making an effort to get it annexed to Bangladesh. Dhaka has to be warned in the strongest possible terms. If it will not listen and hand over ULFA traitors to India, then India must make up its mind to take whatever unilateral steps are necessary to safeguard its security and integrity?and damn the consequences.
Under a UN Security Council Resolution (No. 1373) all states are enjoined to prevent their territory from being used against other countries. Time to take action against Bangladesh is now?before it gets too late. For far too long has India become a nation of softies, afraid to take strong?and much needed?decisions. But who will tell Dr Manmohan Singh?