The United Liberation Front of Asom, which has been carrying out terror activities in the North eastern state for the last 30 years, has its genesis in the gathering of five rebellious youths with their ideologue advocating a 'sovereign, socialist Assam' in 1979.
Days before the Rongali Bihu (harvest festival) in the spring of 1979, the six men met at Rang Ghar in Assam's Sibsagar district and sowed the seeds of Sangjukta Mukti Bahini Asom (United Liberation Front of Asom) for an armed revolt.
On that eventful day of April 7, ULFA's future course of subversive activities was unfolded by Rajib Rajknowar or Arabinda Rajkhowa, Paresh Barua, Samiran Gogoi alias Pradip Gogoi, Golap Baruah alias Anup Chetia and Bhadreswar Gohain along with their 'mama' Bhimkanta Buragohain.
While Rajkhowa became the 'chairman' of the outfit, Barua was given the responsibility of heading its armed wing. Thirty years and several violent activities later, all founding members of ULFA except for Barua, are in custody.
Vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, arrested on April 8, 1998, is in judicial custody at the central jail in Guwahati, general secretary Anup Chetia, who was held in Dhaka on December 21, 1997, is still in detention in Bangladesh. Ideologue Buragohain, apprehended during the Bhutan operations in December 2003, is now in Tezpur jail, Sonitpur. On December 4, Rajkhowa and 'deputy C-in-C' Raju Barua were arrested by Border Security Force men. Assam Police has now taken custody of them.
The ULFA, which has spread its net in neighbouring countries, particularly in Bangladesh, began rampant extortion drives at gun-point in Assam to run the outfit and pay for the training of its cadre to Kachin Independence Army of Myanmar, which charges around Rs 1 lakh per trainee, sources said.
From 1983 onwards, it set up several training camps in Bangladesh and launched several projects in Dhaka to generate income. The projects include soft drink manufacturing units, media consultancy services, three hotels, two motor driving schools and a private health clinic, they said.Barua alone is reported to own a tannery, travel agencies, a chain of departmental stores, garment factories, shrimp trawlers, transport and investment companies.
The ULFA expanded its operational activities further and received shipments of their arms in the country before smuggling them to India with the help of Muslim United Tigers of Assam (MULTA) and Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA), the sources said. ULFA had also allegedly established contacts with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Afghan Mujahideens with 200 of their cadre receiving training on counter intelligence, use of sophisticated weapons and explosives, from them.
Arrested ULFA militants have on several occasions claimed that the outfit also forged a close nexus with then Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eeelam for transporting arms from southeast Asia into Myanmar and training its cadre in handling explosives.