Ulfa's Sashadhar Choudhury (left) addressing the media in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Internet
Star Online Report
Top leader of United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) Sashadhar Choudhury has said Pakistan's ISI trained the insurgent outfit while individuals from various Bangladeshi agencies helped it with logistics and support.
"Pakistan's ISI trained United Liberation Front of Asom activists and, in 1991, I was part of the first batch of outfit's members to go to Pakistan for training in small arms, including main battle rifles," Choudhury said in an interview to The Times of India published on Tuesday.
Choudhury, who joined the Ulfa in 1985, is now a member of the Ulfa delegation preparing to hold peace talks with Indian government, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
"I had a Bangladeshi national ID card issued by their army and passports of several countries including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Fiji and South Africa," he said.
For 12 years till his arrest in November 2009, Shashadhar Choudhury said he had lived in Bangladesh with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.
"I lived in Bangladesh as Rafiqul Islam. My wife Runima, a member of Ulfa's cultural wing, assumed the name Sabina Yasmin," said Choudhury, who lived in a rented house in Dhaka's posh locality Uttara Sector-3.
Choudhury and Runima got married in Bangladesh in 1997 and set up home there. Their daughter studied in Dhaka's International Turkish Hope School, he said.
Ulfa leaders, their wives and children assumed Islamic names and lived a life of disguise in Bangladesh till Sheikh Hasina swept to power in 2009, he added.
In 1992, he was chosen Ulfa's "Foreign Secretary" by the outfit's general council.
"Soon after joining, we had trained with the Nagas of the undivided NSCN. In 1988, we were the second batch of Ulfa who went over to Kachin in Myanmar. We fought along with Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for two years and shared their guns," he said.
Later, as Ulfa's financial resources improved, they began buying weapons.
"The Chinese sold Ulfa weapons but indirectly. They are not fools to train insurgents or get directly involved," Choudhury said.
The worst ordeal, Choudhury said, was during Operation Goldenbird in 1995, a joint anti-insurgent military offensive launched by India and Myanmar.
"I was the golden bird they were looking for. For nine days, I fought without food or water in the jungles of Myanmar's Chin which was an unknown terrain for us," he claimed.
But the Indian Army managed to catch him in northeastern Indian state of Mizoram. "But they did not know they had caught Shashadhar Choudhury. For two-and-a-half months in Army custody, they only asked me where is Shasha? But I managed to protect myself saying I was Sailen Choudhury," he said. Sailen Choudhury was an Ulfa member who had been killed in that operation.
Later, he was taken away from Army custody, produced in court and sent to jail. He struck a deal with then AGP government in Assam. He offered to build bridges between Ulfa and the government in return for his release. But, soon after he was released, he jumped bail and fled to Bhutan. "It was for survival," he said.
Ulfa received the worst blow during Royal Bhutan Army's Operation All Clear in 2003. A large number of their members were killed or went missing.
"After this, we shifted our headquarters to Bangladesh and then to Myanmar," he said.