Army to hire SULFA for Bhutan operations

Even as the King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuk was visiting India, Indian troops conducted a covert operation in Samdrup Jongkhar, in the Assam-Bhutan border only to face higher casualities than the ULFA cadre, who according to intelligence sources in the Army, lost only 3 men. This, according to the sources, has resulted in the army changing tact and deciding to hire surrendered ULFA (SULFA) militants to carry out covert strikes against their former comrades, given their first hand knowledge of the terrain of Bhutan. This is being done even as the King of Bhutan offers the fig leaf of talks to the ultras in a last ditch effort to find a peaceful solution to the issue of foreign insurgents of the ULFA and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) on their soil. The services of 220 surrendered ULFA militants have already been requisitioned for the purpose, the sources said. A similar strategy may also be drawn up to deal with insurgents in Bangladesh. A part of which was the recent unsuccessful attempt on the life of Paresh Baruah, the ULFA commander-in chief, the sources said. In yet another major development, more than 200 cadres of the ULFA have shifted from Bhutan till Thursday last and have set up temporary bases in the jungles of the Pavoi Wild Life Sanctuary along the Assam-Bhutan border, and are on the move towards Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. According to the sources, the NSCN(IM) are suppose to provide them safe passage to Myamnar. The exodus has come in the wake of the recent agreement between Bhutan and India, which will now allow Indian troops to conduct operations in the mountain kingdom to destroy insurgent camps of the ULFA and the NDFB. Meanwhile, according to reports, ULFA cadres are now being seen in and around the island of Majuli in Upper Assam, where they are said to be stocking up on medical supplies for their comrades who have shifted from Bhutan. At present the ULFA has 12 while the NDFB has 8 camps, mostly in the Samdrup Jongkhar area of southern Bhutan .

The latest exodus of the militants from Bhutan is reminiscent of similar cadre movement from militant camps, in areas, such as Lakipathar in Upper Assam, following similar media publicity given to the possibility of army operations being launched against the insurgents in the state. In the subsequent launching of operation Bajrang, the army faced little resistance from the ULFA cadres, most of whom had shifted from their camps in Lakipathar and other such areas leaving behind only a token presence. This had resulted in hardly any members of the upper hierarchy being apprehended.

By Bijoy Handique (newsfiledelhi@sify.com)