An Annotated Interview with Sashadhar Choudhury, Foreign Secretary, United Liberation Front of Asom [Assam]

Rajeev Bhattacharyya, Nikhil Raymond Puri


The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was founded in the spring of 1979, guided by a desire to liberate the north-eastern state of Assam from the “neglectful” and “exploitative” tendencies of Indian control. The group’s objectives dovetailed with the nationalist fervour of the Assam Movement (1979-85), which sought to resist the perceived influx into Assam of illegal immigrants, and opposed what it considered a state-sanctioned policy of enfranchising these (mostly Bengali) “foreigners.” While the Indian state succeeded in absorbing the majority of agitators into the political mainstream through the Assam Accord of 1985, ULFA persisted with a militant struggle aimed at secession from the Indian union. Towards this end, the group was able to capitalise on a critical mass of individuals dissatisfied with the terms of the Accord. A quantitative indicator of the group’s salience resides in the assortment of statistics capturing the impact of militancy in Assam. Official and unofficial data sources suggest that more than 4,000 civilians, and approximately 800 security personnel succumbed to militant activity in the state during the two decades spanning 1992 through 2011. In absence of a continuous record of ULFA-specific incidents, scattered repositories place the group’s relative responsibility for this death toll between 20 and 26 percent of civilian fatalities, and between 32 and 43 percent of fatalities in the case of security personnel. In absolute terms, these estimates suggest that between 800 and 1,040 civilians and between 250 and 350 security personnel died in the context of ULFA activity during this period. But ULFA’s assault has not been unilateral. Deploying the combined strength of its military, paramilitary, and police forces, the Indian state has achieved considerable success in its effort to weaken the group. According to one source, as many as 855 ULFA operatives were killed in the period from 1992 through 2001. Coupled with these coercive measures, the state’s provision of financial incentives to surrendering militants has induced a great many to disengage. 

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

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