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‘Truth about ULFA, my childhood & why I’ll keep fighting’: rebel Paresh Baruah on his memoir

Speaking to ThePrint, ULFA(I) chief Paresh Baruah did not disclose the name of the memoir, but said it would be published in ‘less than a month or 20 days’.

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Guwahati: “The truth is truth,” said Paresh Baruah, the commander-in-chief of the banned insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent), or ULFA(I), as he talked about his upcoming memoir. 

Speaking to ThePrint from an unknown number, Baruah did not disclose the name of the memoir, but said it would be published in “less than a month or 20 days”.

“If it’s not the truth, people will not accept it. If it’s a fictionalised biography, no one would really want to read it,” he added. “My part, to narrate facts, has been completed. But other areas — like proof-reading and editing — are being done.”

Baruah, who once played football for Oil India and was believed to be among Assam’s best goalkeepers at the time, joined the ULFA in 1981. 

The ULFA came into existence in the same churn of the late 1970s and early 1980s that triggered the six-year Assam Agitation (1979-1985) against foreigners. It was formed by a small group of youths who believed in armed struggle, and took a leaf out of the movement of the Naga rebels.

While secession from India was ULFA’s declared goal, it has consistently stood against illegal immigration, which remains a hot-button issue in Assam to this day. Over the years, many other issues found a place on its agenda, including the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which gives Army personnel sweeping powers — with respect to use of force and making arrests — to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. 

The ULFA has been accused of unleashing a wave of violence in the northeastern state, including abductions of businessmen for ransom and killing government officials, besides disruption of communications and attacks on economic targets.

The killings and illegal activities escalated in 1990, but declined after the Army was deployed — even as sporadic attacks continued. The peak period for the outfit was 1987-90. In November 1990, Assam was brought under President’s rule, and the ULFA banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The ULFA (I) recently made news for the December abduction of two officials of the New Delhi-headquartered Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited who were released this month. 

The group continues to issue warnings to business houses and companies, including tea plantations, on creating jobs for indigenous Assamese youths. 

Baruah said he “has been bothered about the misrepresentation of facts about ULFA in the past years”, adding that his memoir will be steeped in historical accuracy. It is his voice that tells “true stories” with ruthless precision, and that is why “some might not like it”, he said.

“I had contemplated this before. There has been a misrepresentation of facts, people have written in many ways — some know little, others know too much, but who knows the truth? I am not speaking with arrogance when I say this. I have only tried to record facts,” he added. 

For the book, he said, he recorded his recollections on audio 4-5 hours daily over a period of three months.

“I am not a writer. I have recorded my memoir, anyone who attempts to recreate it cannot misquote me,” he added. “It would be unfortunate if that happens. The facts should remain facts — so that people of Assam are informed and ULFA’s history remains undistorted,” he added.


Also Read: ULFA(I) abduction of Quippo staff ‘desperate’ yet dark reminder of Assam’s insurgency past


‘Revolution is not over’

The ULFA was formed in 1979, but the group remained inactive until the mid-1980s. Its activities picked up after the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985 amid scepticism about the constitutional safeguards it promised the Assamese.

Baruah was part of the second wave of ULFA leaders, along with Arabinda Rajkhowa (Rajib Rajkonwar), Anup Chetia (Golap Baruah), and a few others from Nalbari who took over the mantle of the group after the initial leadership was either caught by police or came overground. 

The rebel group had clearly partitioned political and military wings. Baruah led the military wing as commander-in-chief, while Rajkhowa headed the political unit.

According to Baruah, the biography would offer an elaborately layered account of his life, the formation of ULFA and the revolution, the highs and lows, and the obstacles the outfit encountered along the way. It will also include a glimpse at his childhood — the contours of his preadolescent mind and under what circumstances he joined the armed struggle. 

“A number of ULFA leaders who abandoned the cause have spoken to different people about the outfit, and what has been written over time is controversial — they don’t know how ULFA was formed, the inside story, the ups and downs that are part of any organisation or human life, or any country,” said Baruah. “Not everything always has an even course. I have talked all about it.”

“I have also spoken about my childhood. How I was — for that is also an important matter,” he said. “In what circumstances I moved out to join the revolution. Many have written about me. My date of birth has been wrongly mentioned. I did not correct anyone as I was then leading a mission,” he added. 

Baruah told ThePrint that his biography only talks about events till 2010. This is two years before the ULFA formally split into two factions — one led by Arabinda Rajkhowa, which was in favour of talks with the government, and the other led by Baruah, opposed to dialogue. 

In September 2011, the faction led by Rajkhowa had signed a tripartite agreement for Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Centre and the Assam government.

After the split, the faction led by Baruah renamed itself ULFA (I) in 2013. 

“I have not mentioned a word on ULFA (I) in this biography — because our revolution continues, and it’s uncertain. Until my death, I will carry on,” he added. “Before that too, I might be able to do something. The revolution is not over yet. Till then, certain things can’t be let out.”

Asked if he could return to the mainstream, Baruah was dismissive. “If I am a man without principles, I can think of giving up. Until death, I won’t sway from my principles,” he said. “Armed struggle is different from non-violence. Subhas Chandra Bose did not choose to be Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi.”

‘Compiled by young Assamese writers’

Baruah said the book was initially supposed to be penned by writer, journalist and Sahitya Akademi awardee Homen Borgohain, but these plans fell through for certain reasons. 

“I have given the responsibility to a few young persons who take an interest in writing. They are new, but it’s encouraging for them,” he said.

“The final editing will be done by a renowned litterateur from Assam. It would be funny to assume we know scholarly literature,” he added. “We can make war strategies, not write books.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)


Also Read: ULFA’s Paresh Baruah ‘hopeful of positive result’ in Quippo abduction, says 60% Assam backs us


 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. How much money murderer Paresh Baruah paid to The Print to publish his story ?Shame on Print to glorify a terrorist.

  2. He is a traitor. He has looted small businessman and shopkeepers to create his wealth.
    Not only that, but he has killed small little kids bomb blast, killed innocent people just to established their power. He ordered to kill Hindi-speaking innocent daily wage labourers.

    It was never clear to the people what they are fighting for and for whom? Surely people of Assam are not going to forget all his wrongdoings, and they will never forgive him. His memoir will be written by blood of innocent people whom he has killed.

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