May 1, 1957 |
|Other names||Kamruj Zaman Khan
|Known for||Vice-chairperson and the commander-in-chief of the ULFA (I)|
|Revolution against Indian Federation|
|Spouse(s)||Boby Bhuyan Baruah|
|Parents||Dwijen Baruah (Father)
Miliki Baruah (Mother)
|Motive||Sovereignty of Assam and establishment of Aai Asom|
Paresh Baruah (Assamese: পৰেশ বৰৃৱা), also known by his alias Paresh Asom, is a political activist with the rebel group ULFA, which is seeking sovereignty for Assam from the Indian State. He is the vice-chairperson and the commander-in-chief of the United Liberation Front of Assam – Independent (ULFA – I). He also uses several other aliases, namely, Kamruj Zaman Khan, Nur-uz-Zaman and Zaman Bhai.
Early life and family
Paresh Baruah was born in 1957 at Jeraichakali Bhariagaon, Assam, India. He played soccer when young, first for the Dibrugarh district, and then while studying at Dibrugarh University. As a young man, he started working for the railway, staying there from 1978 to 1982. He played soccer as a full-back for the Dibrugarh Railway team. He next worked for Oil India Limited at Duliajan for some time. He is married to Boby Bhuyan Baruah, and have two children named Tahshim Khan and Akash Khan. Another source says that his elder son is named Tahsan Ankur Khan Sunlee.
In December 2010, Baruah e-mailed the Indo-Asian News Service reporting that his elder son (19) has been abducted in Bangladesh "to exert mental pressure on his family and to force him to surrender." Later, the ULFA said that his son was beaten sorely by the kidnappers "to pressure him to disclose his father's whereabouts, sources of income and business", but was allowed to leave after painstaking interrogation. The organisation further claimed that Baruah's son was terrified to stay tight-lipped about his kidnapping. In his e-mail, Baruah also wrote:
"My son is not important or bigger than my people and the cause for which we are struggling. No one can make me or my family weak just because my son has been kidnapped, and let me tell you, we are prepared to sacrifice our son but at no cost I would waiver on my stand."
He described the incident as a stratagem of Indian officials but the they denied the accusation.
Times of Assam has claimed that the intelligence agencies of India may be trying to ferret out Baruah by closely monitoring Sunlee. The newspaper further claimed that numerous pictures of Sunlee were gathered by the intelligence agencies in early 2012. The Union Home Secretary of India has said that Baruah's family is not desirous to return to India, because of their stiff attitude. A collaborator of Baruah has said that two aides of Arabinda Rajkhowa were sent to Bangladesh to convince his and Anup Chetia's family to come back to India.
Demand for Aai Asom and role as ULFA leader
In 2004, Baruah was constantly in touch with some academics including Indira Goswami and numerous organisations, but he was switched to a secure location to undergo a surgery due to a medical emergency, which temporarily halted the communication. Around 2008, he was again in frequent e-mail communication with the Assamese author, Indira Goswami. She acted as a mediator in proposed peace talks between ULFA leaders and the government of India. He was alleged to have insisted on the sovereignty of Assam, and the peace talks did not take place.
In January 2010, G. K. Pillai had substantial talks with his official Myanmar counterpart at Nay Pyi Taw on numerous issues, but Baruah was one of the main focal points. Later, an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs conveyed to the press that Myanmar has promised to capture Baruah, if he is discovered in the country. Later in August, the Indian agencies claimed that within January, Baruah was legally provided the Chinese visa which authorised him to stay in China for a maximum time period of six months. The agencies further claimed that the Chinese visa was given to him on a Bangladeshi passport which was further reported to had been issued under his alias Kamrul Zaman. But, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had repudiated the allegations, claiming that it had never rendered assistance to the ULFA's commander-in-chief.
A photograph of Baruah and the ULFA cadres holding arms and dressed in combat fatigues was strategically provided to the press by the organisation in 2011. The organisation also distributed a video of Baruah to the media groups in which he was dancing with the cadres of ULFA, during the Bihu festival. The video was seen as an attempt to intimidate the government of India and the ULFA members who agreed to lay down arms. In the video, the ULFA cadres can be heard shouting slogans in favour of the secession of Assam. Earlier, the Indian government had granted bails to some of the high ranking arrested leaders of the ULFA "to try and isolate Baruah and hold formal peace talks".
In September 2011, the Myanmar Army was able to trace Baruah along with some ULFA members in the forest regions of north-west Myanmar and struck at them. But, despite of sustaining injuries, he survived the onslaught. The same year, the then Home Secretary of India told media that the government of Myanmar has taken a journalist into custody, who was believed to have gone there to interview Baruah. A senior ULFA leader, Jivan Moran, was also arrested along with the reporter. This followed a hoax in media that Baruah had also been captured, but the Home Secretary denied receiving any such information.
Baruah was extensively reported to have shifted to China, but in 2012, he was sighted in Nagaland, goalkeeping in a football match between the team of the United Liberation Front of Assam, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) versus the People's Liberation Army of Manipur. The football match was organised as an attempt to promote cooperation between the insurgent organisations operating in India's North-East. Baruah has ruled out negotiations with the government of India without addressing the question of sovereignty for Assam, and described the "peace talks" between the "pro-talk faction" with the Indian government as "a sell-out by Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and other leaders." But, he added that the ULFA's "demand for sovereignty does not mean secession". He further declared that the "anti-talk faction" of ULFA will not halt their battle for the "Aai Asom (motherland)", and he had issued the "pro-talk faction" a deadline of three months to "break talks with the government and return to the outfit." After the ultimatum of three months was over without any response from Rajkhowa, the ULFA ousted him from his appointed ranks in the ULFA on 8 August 2012, and announced that Abhizeet Asom, who was working as the acting chairman, would serve the organisation as its chairperson since the day. Later on 30 April 2013, the wing led by Baruah, which adhere uncompromisingly to the demand of the sovereignty of Assam renamed the organisation as the ULFA – Independent. They believe the organisation's new name is "in tune with its uncompromising quest for liberation of Assam" from what they view as the "colonial Indian rule". Baruah said that he does recognises Rajkhowa's work but Asom is a more politically conscious individual.
In March 2013, he castigated Rajkhowa's pronouncement to the journalists that Baruah is still the whole ULFA's commander-in-chief and will also join the ongoing talks," affirming that "he [Baruah] would never come forward for talks with the government under the framework of Constitution as it would not be able to solve the conflict as the solution lay only in restoration of sovereignty of Assam." He further accused the pro-talk faction of forgetting the 14,000 ULFA cadres who drew their last breath while battling with who he termed as the "Indian occupational forces."
Bhimkanta Buragohain alias Mama, who was one of the senior-most leaders of ULFA, and had held a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2011 to achieve an understanding between the pro-talk faction of ULFA and the Indian government, once said:
"I'm sure that if we make some progress in talks, then he [Paresh Baruah] will have no choice but to join us, but if we fail, then he will have a big party in the jungle."
Baruah expressed sorrow on Buragohain's demise on 19 December 2011, and issued a joint official statement with Bormon stating that the ULFA's members are grieving over his death. He described the passing away of Buragohain as a "huge loss" to the organisation. They further declared a three days mourning, and announced to keep the ULFA's flags lowered in its camps.
One of his collaborator had alleged that that G. K. Pillai had attempted to spread rumor regarding Baruah, to fabricate misconception about him amongst the people of Assam.
On January 30, 2014, a special court in Chittagong commuted death sentence to Baruah and 13 others for smuggling in 10 truckloads of firearms in 2004. However, Baruah is unlikely to get intimidated by the Bangladeshi court's verdict, and is expected to continue with his activities.
Views on the Maoist movement in India
He has an empathy with the Naxalites, and recently said in interview that the ULFA and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have a "tactical understanding". In an e-mail sent to the media, he further quoted:
"Maoism in India has been born out of the government's failure to address to the minimum needs of the common man. We may have different ideologies but we share a common quest — of overthrowing the current social system and replacing it with a new one; our enemy is common and, on this count, the Maoists have our complete moral support."
Kishenji also acknowledged that the ULFA's "way" is dissimilar from the Maoists'. The "experts" hold the view the link between the Maoists and the ULFA "would remain on a purely strategic level" only.
In April 2013, the news media alleged that on 10 April, Baruah had aggressively warned the artists to refrain from signing and performing on Hindi songs during the Rongali Bihu celebrations, and threatened to kill Zubeen Garg for not following their words. Tarun Gogoi also appreciated Garg for not listening to the ULFA. But, while being interviewed by an Assamese television channel, Baruah elucidated that the ULFA made "only an appeal to all artistes not to sing Hindi songs at Bihu functions" and that their "appeal" was misapprehend as a warning. He also stated that Garg must express regret for his comments over the organisation's appeal.
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- "Assam Govt refuses to comment on Death Sentence to Paresh Barua". IANS. Biharprabha News. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
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- Mandal, Caesar. "Green Hunt forces Red brigade into N-E territory". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 November 2013. "Kishanji, however, conceded that their way is different from that of Ulfas. Experts, too, believe that the Red brigades relationship with Ulfa would remain on a purely strategic level."
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- "Paresh Baruah’s close aide Pranjit Saikia was another key of Indian Intelligence", Times of Assam, 30 May 2012