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NE rebel groups likely to join hands for ‘sovereignty’ cause

Guwahati: All militant groups of the northeast — barring Garo National Liberation Front (GNLF) of Meghalaya — are set to come under the umbrella group United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW) next year to fight jointly for the 'sovereignty' of their respective states.

At present, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit) and Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO) are under UNLFW, a two-year-old organization led by SS Khaplang. The Meitei rebel groups, on the other hand, operate under the Coordination Committee (CorCom). The GNLA, which works out of the Garo Hills in Meghalaya, works closely with Ulfa-I but is yet to join any umbrella group.

The initiative to unite all rebel outfits of the region has been taken by Ulfa-I 'military chief and vice-chairman' Paresh Baruah. "We should be able to bring all the groups under UNLFW early next year. GNLF's joining is not yet being considered," Baruah told TOI.

Two Meitei groups — KYKL and KCP — recently left the CorCom because of 'internal problems' but Baruah is certain that CorCom would resolve its problems and all its constituent groups would join UNLFW. The other CorCom members are People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Progressive), Revolutionary People's Front and United National Liberation Front.

Taking a step towards the ultimate unification of the groups, CorCom and Ulfa-I had already formed a 'joint command' and ambushed a convoy of the Army in Tinsukia district in Assam on November 19, killing three jawans and injuring four others. They also carried out a second attack on the Army in Chandel district of Manipur on November 26 and injured five jawans. Operation Barak, as the attacks were codenamed, is the first instance of Meitei groups carrying out a terror strike in Assam and Ulfa-I operating in Manipur.

"Operation Barak, named after the Barak river that flows from Manipur to Assam, is a symbol of friendship between the two states," Baruah said.

The plan to make UNLFW bigger indicates a possibility of heightened militancy in the region in the coming days. This could increase pressure on security forces, particularly in Manipur which goes to the polls early next year.