The United Liberation Front of Asom is a separatist organization from Assam. It was formed by the historic Ahom structure Rang ghar on April 7, 1979. The ULFA is one of many separatist organizations from North-East India
The major leaders of the organization are:
- Paresh Baruah (Commander-in-Chief)
- Arabinda Rajkhowa (Chairman)
- Anup Chetia (General Secretary) (in Government of Bangladesh custody)
- Pradip Gogoi (Vice-Chairman) (in Government of Assam custody)
ULFA according to itself
The ULFA considers itself a "revolutionary political organization" engaged in a "national liberation struggle" against the "occupation by India" for the establishment of a sovereign, independent Assam. It does not consider itself a secessionist organization, as it claims that Assam was never a part of India. It claims that among the various problems that people of Assam are confronting, the problem of national identity is the most basic, and therefore it seeks to represent "independent minded struggling peoples" irrespective of race, tribe, caste, religion and nationality.
ULFA according to Government of India
The Government of India (GOI) has classified it a terrorist organization and had banned it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 1990. Concurrently, GOI started a military offensive against it, named Operation Bajrang lead by the Indian Army. The operation continues at present under the Unified Command Structure.
The Government of India accuses ULFA of maintaining links with the ISI of Pakistan and the DGFI of Bangladesh, and waging a proxy war on their behalf against India.
Some of the major assassinations by ULFA include that of Surendra Paul in May 1990, the brother of businessman Swaraj Paul, that precipitated a situation leading to the sacking of the Government of Assam under Prafulla Mahanta and the beginning of Operation Bajrang.
In 1991 a Russian engineer was kidnapped, along with others, and killed. In 1997, Sanjay Ghose, a social activist and a relative of a high ranking Indian diplomat, was kidnapped and killed. The highest government officer assassinated by the group was local AGP minister Nagen Sharma in 2000. An unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on AGP Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta in 1997. A mass grave, discovered at a destroyed ULFA camp in Lakhipathar forest, showed evidence of executions committed by ULFA.
ULFA continues to attempt ambushes and sporadic attacks on government security forces.
In 2003, the ULFA was accused of killing innocent laborers from Bihar.
The ULFA has claimed bombings of economic targets like crude oil pipelines, freight trains and government buildings.
There are regular media reports of ULFA recruitment drives, especially in the rural areas. Even though many times the estimated original membership have either been captured, killed or have surrendered to government agencies, the continuing presence of ULFA members suggest that these reports are true.
After 1985 and before it was banned in 1990, ULFA was credited in the media with many public activities. Soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the ULFA was reported to have stopped Hindu-Muslim riots in the Hojai region of Nagaon district by displaying arms openly.
It has continued a public discourse of sorts through the local media (newspapers), occasionally publishing its position on political issues centered around the nationality question. It has participated in public debates with public personalities from Assam. During the last two local elections the ULFA had called for boycotts, and media reports suggest that it had intimidated activists of the then ruling parties (Congress and AGP respectively).
The ULFA is credited with some bank robberies during its initial stages. Now it is widely reported to extort businessmen, beauracrats and politicians for collecting funds. In 1997, the Chief Minister of Assam accused the Tata Tea of paying the medical bills of the ULFA cultural secretary Pranati Deka at a Mumbai hospital.
It is reported that the ULFA leaders have invested in businesses in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The ULFA is reported to maintain a number of camps in Bangladesh, where members are trained and sheltered away from Indian security forces. Till recently, they had maintained camps in Bhutan, which were destroyed by the Royal Bhutan Army in December, 2003. These camps housed combatants and non-combatant families of ULFA members.
The ULFA maintains close relationships with other separatist organizations like NDFB, KLO and NSCN(Khaplang).
SULFA: Surrendered ULFA
Beginning with 1990, the Government of India has attempted to wean away members of ULFA. In 1992 a large section of second rung leaders and members surrendered to government authorities. These former members were allowed to retain their weapons to defend themselves against their former colleagues and were offered bank loans without any liabilities. This loose group, now called SULFA, has become an important element in a situation of armed politics and business in Assam.
Under the government of AGP leader Prafulla Mahanta, a number of family members of ULFA leaders were assassinated by unidentified gunmen. With the fall of this government following elections in 2001, the secret killings stopped.
The ULFA has put forward a set of three pre-conditions for talks and negotiations with GOI. The government has rejected these pre-conditions. The pre-conditions are:
- The talks should be held in a third country.
- The talks should be held under United Nations supervision.
- The agenda of the talks should include the soverignity of Assam.
The organizers claim that they formed the organization in order to help the indigenous nationalities fight back against continuous migration of Indian nationalities, specifically Bengali-muslims from Bangladesh into Assam. However, over the last 25 years, this organization has done little to achieve its aim, instead it has concentrated in amassing wealth from the indigenous population and foreign traders alike, by the threat of violence.
The organization was banned by the GOI (Government of India) due to its anti-national activities, and has ever since operated as an underground armed organization that mostly extorts money from people of all works of life.
The leaders of the organization have moved their bases of operation into Bangladesh, and have converted to Islam. They have aligned with the Bengali population of Bangladesh in order to fight against the government of India and establish a Islamic Bengali homeland in Assam.
Among its regular activates are economic sabotage like blowing up major oil institutions in the state, killing non-Bengali Indian seasonal workers in the region, and extorting money from small tea growers who doesn't have the clout to get protection from the Indian armed forces.
Because of its activities, today Assam has no major infrastructure investments or any motivated investors who are willing to invest in a region which has become so unstable. ULFA has also recruited thousands of bright and talented indigenous youth of the region, and converted them into thugs and dacoits by arming them with weapons and amphetamine, both of which are easily available from South East Asian underground markets. Because of their lack of actual military training, and due to the lack of an actual aim, most of these local tribal kids are killed-in-action by Indian armed forces, or surrender to Indian forces.
The two most important figures of this organization, Paresh Barua and Aravinda Rajkhuwa, are both living in Bangladesh.
On August 15, 2004, an explosion occurred in Assam in which 10-15 people died, including some schoolchildren. This explosion was reportedly carried out by ULFA. The ULFA has obliquely accepted responsibility for the blast  (http://www.assamtribune.com/aug1704/at05.html). This appears to be the first instance of ULFA admitting to public killings with an incendiary device.
- Assam (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/assam.htm): Global Security
- ULFA - Terrorist Group from Assam (http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/assam/terrorist_outfits/ulfa.htm) from South Asia Terrorism Portal (http://satp.org/)
- "Bomb kills 10 at India Independence Parade" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/15/international/asia/15india.html) - article in New York Times dated August 15, 2004