Counter-Terrorism: India Cuts Them Off At The Free Pass


November 13, 2007: India's long term strategy against tribal separatist rebels in the northeast (Assam) is paying off. One of the more prominent rebel groups, the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) is falling apart. In the last year, over 700 members have surrendered, and accepted amnesty. Several hundred others have been killed or captured. Many more have simply quit. Several leaders have also surrendered or been arrested. The key to this success was a four year campaign to shut down ULFA sanctuaries in neighboring countries. In 2003, Bhutan cooperated, and ran the ULFA out. Then India made deals with Bangladesh and Myanmar to shut down ULFA camps there. Inside India, life was much more dangerous for ULFA fighters, and getting chased around by soldiers and police got old real fast.

All this happened at the time that many of the rebels were getting tired of their seemingly futile effort to achieve independence, or at least a lot of autonomy, for the tribes in the northeast. The fatigue was enhanced by the fact that ASOM's senior leaders were living in exile. After twenty years of struggle, these leaders have lost touch with the people they purport to represent. Moreover, ULFA was founded by men who believed communism was the future. The collapse of the Soviet Union, and evaporation of communist rule in so many nations, has made it difficult to keep believing.

Like many rebel organizations, the ULFA has largely turned into a criminal gang just to survive. But that's a hard life without sanctuaries across the border. The ULFA will fade away now. Part of it will still be around for years, but no longer as a serious threat to India.


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