ULFA resumes extortion of tea firms, businesses

Guwahati, July 2 (Calcutta Tube) The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is back with its terror designs after a long gap by slapping huge extortion notices on tea companies, business houses and individuals across Assam, officials Friday said.

‘The ULFA, of late, has served extortion demands to various people with amounts ranging from Rs.500,000 to Rs.1.5 million,’ a senior police official said requesting anonymity.

On Thursday, a group of about 10 heavily armed ULFA militants entered the Luit tea garden in Tinsukia district in eastern Assam and went on a rampage, burning three vehicles and physically assaulting the plantation manager and two other workers.

‘They fired in the air and beat me up with sticks and set ablaze the vehicles. The ULFA has been demanding money from us for the last few months,’ Sandhan Kumar Tamuly, the injured garden manager, told IANS.

The rebels left the garden with a warning that next time the situation would worsen if extortion money was not paid.

Garden authorities and police were tightlipped about the amount demanded from the tea garden.

The ULFA, fighting for an independent homeland since 1979, had been lying low since the past nearly two years with no major incidents of violence reported.

The group was in disarray after the arrest of almost the entire top brass in Bangladesh, besides two of its potent striking units, the Alpha and the Charlie companies of ULFA’s 28th battalion, entering into a ceasefire in June 2008.

Barring ULFA’s elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, the entire top brass of the outfit is in jail. The imprisoned leaders include chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury, finance secretary Chitrabon Hazarika, cultural secretary Pranati Deka and ULFA political ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain.

Two other leaders – ULFA vice chairman Pradip Gogoi and publicity chief Mithinga Daimary – are currently out on bail and are engaged in drumming up public support for opening peace talks.

‘The attack on the Luit tea garden is nothing but a show of strength by the ULFA and we will not be surprised to see some attempts at creating violence in the near future to prove the outfit is not a spent force,’ the police official said

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