Connecting Regions of Asia.

Paresh Barua’s Return Sarma’s Top Priority

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With the ULFA decimated by desertion and death of fighters in action, the new BJP government in Assam may push hard to bring to table the state’s elusive guerilla leader Paresh Barua.
A first class soccer goalkeeper , Barua has been underground since 1979. Now he seems to be holed at Tenchong on China-Myanmar border , from where he controls his fighters based in Taga in Sagaing region near India-Myanmar border. 
The two locations are hundreds of kilometers away but Barua rarely stays in his main base, perhaps for security reasons. 
Barua’s ULFA ( Independent) faction suffered  a series of setbacks recently– his ‘western army’ commander Drishti Rajkhowa surrendered , his successor Dwipen Saud was killed and Barua’s  second in command Jiban Moran left ULFA on ‘medical grounds’ just before the state polls ended in Assam.
But  Moran’s ‘sanctioned retirement ‘ on medical ground may be the product of a closely guarded secret operation to facilitate Paresh Barua’s ultimate homecoming and joining negotiations with Delhi alongside  his former ULFA comrades.
Though central intelligence officials and Assam DGP B J Mahanta have followed a relentless pressure and persuasion policy with ULFA , Himanta Biswa Sarma’s taking charge as Chief Minister may help expedite focussed efforts to bring Paresh Barua back home.
Immediately after being sworn in, Sarma appealed to the ULFA military wing chief to come to the table. He has a back channel with Paresh Barua for a while, says surrendered ULFA leaders, many say.
In 2016, Barua gave the only TV interview on camera ever to Newslive correspondent Chayamoni Bhutan. Newslive is owned by Himanta Biswa Sarma’s wife . Some say messages passed back and forth under cover of the interview. 
While Barua’s interviews with other journalists have been done in jungle bases in Sagaing or when he was in hiding in Assam or Bhutan, the one with the Newslive correspondent was done in Ruili, a Chinese border town on the Sino-Burmese frontier . Newslive did not disclose the place of the interview.
Stakes must have been high for Barua to give the interview in such a place risking the ire of the Chinese authorities — something more than media publicity Barua secures by calling up journalists seems to justify the Newslive interview.
Sources within both factions of ULFA say it is time for Paresh Barua to come home and form an United front not only with his erstwhile comrades who are on the table after surrender or handover by Bangladesh but also with like minded Assamese parties who push for protection of Assamese identity and a premium on use of its natural resources.
The Centre’s interlocutor for Assam,  A B Mathur , has already pulled off a brilliant all faction endorsed accord with Bodo rebel groups.He might try the same with the ULFA factions – a comprehensive settlement .
For the go-getter Sarma who just replaced his predecessor in the top seat Sarbananda Sonowal, it would indeed be top priority– and a feather in the cap- if Barua comes back home and takes to the table.

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