DHAKA: Locals are still haunted by the horror of ULFA hunt for 68 Arges grenades missing from their armory. In the middle of 2004, the Arges grenades were found missing from their Garo Hill haven and they held the indigenous youths responsible for the heist.
The Indian separatists held a few meetings with the indigenous people of some villages trying to find out the deadly explosive devices. Ranjan Chowdhury, the ULFA commander now in custody, had threatened to set ablaze the entire area if the grenades were not returned.
Amid the witch-hunt, the tyrants drove away some families from the area, including of Samuel Mansang and Bipul Kubir of Bara Gazni and Namapara. They could not return to their own homesteads for the last six years for fear of the invading outsiders.
The villagers still feel terrified whenever they recall the repression unleashed on them.
During investigation, local people informed the roving banglanews24.com.bd reporter that more than 100 ULFA cadres ransacked 6-7 villages, including Gazni, Bakakura, Dudhnoi and Namapara, in a wild search for the suspected grenade thieves.
“The cadres carried on house-to-house search. They tortured people taking them to camps out of mere suspicion. Even college student Protima Kubi and an aged woman, Frezina Kubi, were not spared from the atrocities of Ranjan Chowdhury and his cadres,” said a villager of Gazni, wishing anonymity.
At that time, 20-22 people were detained to ULFA camps on charge of grenade stealing, and they were tortured inhumanly. Among the victims are Dinal Chambugang of Bakakura, Ramno Kubi, Garo headman Provat Kubi and Profulya Kubi of Choto Gazni, Nipin Dofo, Walem Sanma and Bipul Kubi of Tilapara, Amramanas Cambugong and Micale Dofo of Namapara, Mozom Ali of Dudhnoi, Dilis Mrong, a teacher of Bakakura Sanibaria Mission School, and captain Mankhing and Sudhir Sangma of Choto Gazni Namapara.
The terrifying situation caused the youths to flee their homes.
Victims tell blood-curdling tales of torture
Bipul Kubi, who had been tortured at Bakakura ULFA camp for four days on charge of grenade stealing, has a gory story of grenade gambol and ULFA atrocities.
Bipul fled the area after he got released from the torture camp with feigned the assurance that by any means he would recover the missing grenades. He is now hiding in Madhupur hills, about 150 kilometers away from his village.
He told banglanews24.com.bd, “ I can’t remember the exact date—maybe, August 14 or 15--the ULFA cadres of Bakakura and Gazni camps flew into a rage. The cadres carrying arms started house-to-house search. They called and told me that a large number of powerful Arges grenades, buried under the ground, have been stolen.”
They assigned Bipul to a next-to-impossible task of tracing those who had stolen the munitions. Bipul failed to trace out the stolen grenades even after offering money to some youths.
At one stage, taking money from ULFA he gave bait to some youths for purchasing arms and grenades. After two days, two youths-- Nipin Dofo and Dinal Chambugong of neighbouring village--came to him with a gunny bag. One Walem Sangma of Tilapara village also came.
They showed him grenades, saying that those are Indian make, and demanded Tk 100 for each. After a hot bargain, Bipul paid them Tk 1,000 in advance and fixed Tk 85 for each grenade.
Bipul Kubi claimed that he got frightened after knowing about the devastating power of grenades and lost his interest in purchase. “Rather, I advised Dinal and Nipin to flee dumping the grenades in the jungle.”
As the news spread all around the village, he says, Ranjan’s cadres rushed in to Walem Sangma’s house the following day. “They picked up Walem and his associate Mozom Ali of Dudhnoi village and tortured them whole night at Bakakura camp,” he further said.
In the face of inhuman torture, Walem confessed to the ULFA toughs having stolen grenades. He went home with some ULFA cadres, dug out three grenades from near the tube-well of his house and told them that the rest were in possession of Dinal and Nipin.
According to information given by Walem, the ULFA men picked up some indigenous youths and tortured them.
Thereafter, ULFA repression on the indigenous people had a pause for a few days. But, again they went furious over information that the stolen grenades had been smuggled out of the country.
At that time, the confined villagers were freed by mediation of Father Joseph of Baromari Christian Mission. But the ULFA cadres drove away some families, including Samuel Mangsang and Frezina Kubi’s, from their homesteads.
The oppressed tribal people alleged that they did not get any protection from the then Sherpur police super, Nibash Chandra Majhi, though they had lodged a written complaint with the district police chief about the goings-on in the frontier hills.
Later, some administrative actions were taken in curbing the ULFA activities following publications of a series of news reports. As part of the initiatives, a police camp was set up at Gazni intersection and the number of BDR patrol outposts was increased.
In the face of repeated raids conducted by the RAB personnel and Intelligence agencies, Ranjan Chowdhury and his gunmen were forced to shift their shelters into the forests of Meghalaya crossing over the border.
But, as the story goes, as soon as the raids thinned down after few months, Ranjan and his accomplices made a comeback to their old camp at Bakakura.
Pariahs in own native land
Due to the armed presence of ULFA, eight families, including of Bipul Kubi, Samuel Mansang, Ilias Drong, Dazel Marak and Mrinal Chambugong, could not return to their own houses. They have been in the wilderness, living a subhuman life in others’ shelter.
Once a housewife of a well-off family, Frezina Kubi now stays at a house of Kaliakuri village in Madhupur. She narrated her agonies to banglanews24.com.bd: “I am now passing days as a day labourer staying at other’s house though I have three big tin-shed houses and eight bighas of cropland in my village Choto Gazni.”
Frezina posed a question: “Why should we be on the run in our own independent country to save ourselves from the terrorists of other country?” She demanded of the government to make arrangements for a safe return to her deserted home.
Ilias Drong, member of a well-off family, said that his life became a misery as he protested against the freestyle movements of the ULFA cadres, their social hegemony and their power.
He could not return to his paternal home for the last five years. He lamented, ”I can’t inquire about my family members due to the threat of the armed ULFA cadres. How long have we to bear this agony?”
BDST 1557 HRS, JULY 25, 2010