A report on an Indian website called nenow.in claiming that Paresh Baruah, the commander of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), had died in a traffic accident either in northern Myanmar or southwestern China was a false alarm, the Assamese insurgent group has stated.
ULFA issued a statement on Wednesday that its leader was “safe and sound,” without disclosing his whereabouts.
ULFA has camps in remote areas of Myanmar’s northwestern Sagaing Region, which it shares with other militants from India’s volatile northeastern region, among them Nagas and Manipuris. Some of their leaders are also based at Ruili and Tengchong in western Yunnan, China.
The presence in Myanmar of insurgents from northeastern India has long been an irritant in India’s relations with its eastern neighbor. The insurgents have carried out raids from those cross-border sanctuaries into northeastern India, and then withdrawn back into safety in Myanmar.
One ULFA faction is involved in talks with Indian authorities while another, led by Baruah, is continuing its armed struggle for an independent Assam.
ULFA is allied with a faction of Naga tribesmen from Nagaland state in India and the Naga Hills of northern Sagaing Region as well as several groups of rebels from India’s Manipur state.
Baruah’s ULFA faction has been able to get fresh recruits because of resentment with a controversial citizenship bill that the militants claim will give citizenship to millions of Hindus from Bangladesh who have settled in Assam during the past few decades. Nationalistic Assamese view them, along with other migrants, as a threat to the distinct culture, language and identity of Assam.