ULFA claims minister is ex-member

The militant-politician nexus in Assam once again hit the headlines with an outlawed separatist group claiming that a senior minister was one of its former members.

Guwahati: The militant-politician nexus in Assam once again hit the headlines with an outlawed separatist group claiming that a senior minister was one of its former members and that it openly campaigned for the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) during an earlier election.

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), in an emailed statement, claimed that Assam Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also government spokesperson, was once its member.

"Himanta Biswa Sarma, a former member of ULFA`s political wing, is giving statements against ULFA, which shows his poor knowledge about the revolution. In fact, his lack of knowledge about the revolution and fear for life forced him to leave ULFA," the Paresh Baruah faction of the ULFA said in a statement.

"His flippancy, spinelessness and lack of knowledge were the reasons why he had to leave the ULFA," it added.

But the minister has rejected the charges, saying the elusive ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah has "lost his mental balance".

"The statement has been made out of desperation as we have been very vocal against the ULFA`s terror designs. I don`t think I need to comment further," Sarma said.

The ULFA statement claiming the minister was one of its members before betraying its cause to align with forces of "colonial India" has triggered an uproar with the AGP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trying to raise the issue in Parliament.

"I think the charges are very serious and hence we wanted to raise the issue in Parliament and get a clarification from the government," said Kumar Dipak Das, AGP MP in Rajya Sabha.

BJP supporters, meanwhile, burnt effigies of the minister here and demanded an enquiry.

Even as the alleged ULFA-minister link was dominating media headlines, two senior pro-talk ULFA leaders claimed the outfit supported and openly campaigned for the AGP in the 1996 Assembly Elections.

"This is an open secret and I don`t have any hesitation in admitting that we did campaigned actively for the AGP in the 1996 Assembly Elections at the express orders of our leaders," ULFA commander Jiten Dutta said.

Dutta is now part of the ULFA`s ceasefire group and engaged in peace talks with New Delhi, while Paresh Baruah`s faction is opposed to the peace process.

"We have not taken any help from the ULFA and the allegations are false," AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary said.

IANS