Anti-talk ULFA faction stepping up extortions
Guwahati: An ULFA faction opposed to peace talks, led by Paresh Baruah reportedly living in exile in camps in Myanmar, has been trying to carry out extortion drives, particularly among the tea planters, in various districts of Assam.
Tea growers in Upper Assam, mainly those in Dibrugarh and Sivsagar districts of Assam, have received extortion notes distributed by cadres of UFLA`s anti-talk faction, demanding hefty sums, garden owners said.
"With instruction from higher authorities, we have decided to collect an annual contribution of Rs.15,00,000 to our organisational fund from the tea garden owned by you. This will help stop any misunderstanding between you and our members in future," read an extortion letter.
"Activists of the outfit have regrouped and started massive extortion drives. They have demanded varied amounts from different tea gardens. While in some letters, they have demanded the owner to pay Rs.15 lakh, they have asked some others to cough up Rs.50 lakh and even more," said a member of a leading tea growers` association, on condition of anonymity.
"The extortion notes distributed by the organisation have been signed by various rank and file of the outfit - self-styled Lt. Col. Jibon Asom, 2nd Lt. Bijoy Asom etc.," he said.
Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) SN Singh said there have been reports that the ULFA faction of Baruah has stepped up extortion drives in some Upper Assam districts.
"We have registered a case in this regard after a tea grower approached us with the extortion note distributed by the outfit. We are investigating the matter. It is very difficult because sometimes some fake groups also distribute extortion notes demanding money from the tea growers and businessmen," he said.
"A few months back, we arrested a person who had collected Rs 5 crore over past two years by circulating extortion notes in the name of ULFA. We found he had no links with the outfit," said the IGP, adding that most growers are also not coming forward to register cases against the outfit.
"The ULFA anti-talk faction is facing severe fund crunch, so its members might try to target tea growers. But this may also be a handiwork of petty groups who sometime take advantage of the history of insurgency of the region and demand money in the name of the outfit to fill their own pockets," he said.
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