Friday, June 21, 2024

Body blow to ULFA hardliners


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News of the arrest of Jibon Moran a top functionary of the Paresh Baruah faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in Myanmar should come as a body blow to the outfit. Interestingly, a journalist of newly launched English daily was also arrested along with Moran. The journalist had earlier splashed on social network sites that he was going to interview Paresh Baruah in the jungles of Myanmar. Most journalists consider this a prized assignment. It is a feather in their caps. But what are the implications of such an assignment and what do they really achieve other than a one day “tell it all” account from an insurgent leader who has been most intractable and who has also evaded arrests so far. Paresh Baruah is against the idea of peace talks with Government of India. He continues to exercise considerable influence over the other hawkish elements of the ULFA who are still spread out in the state of Assam and persist with their extortion spree.

That some journalists share a symbiotic relation with leaders of militant outfits is no secret. It’s a sort of quid pro quo. In a market that’s increasingly getting cut-throat the only way to remain on top is to push through the “breaking news” frontiers. Having reached the top of the heap, the competition is to continue to remain there. For the insurgent leaders, belligerent statements in the media help add to their stature. In a region where conflict and insurgent related violence has captured eyeballs for decades, the recent change of heart of some of the more intransigent militant outfits has actually reduced the space for the “hard news” template. Militancy has become a money spinning racket not only for the militants. There are many who feed off it. Security forces and intelligence agencies incur expenses to counter insurgency which they need not account for. The media is an indirect beneficiary. News of bomb blasts and senseless killings from this region manage to make national news headlines. At other times all other news from this region is of no consequence.

Jibon Moran was the army commander of the ULFA – the second in command of the outfit and Baruah’s closest aide. His arrest has several ramifications. It comes in the wake of a new regime in Myanmar which is pro-reforms and which is looking at India as a strong supporter for its entry into the club of democratic countries. Like Bangladesh, Myanmar is also expected to help flush out all insurgent outfits holed up in that country. It may be only a matter of time before Paresh Baruah himself is apprehended. But what’s interesting at the moment is that a media person has become the newsmaker.


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