Assam may not be among states fighting a stiff battle against left-wing extremism yet,but Maoists definitely have a strong footing in the state now. The latest evidence is the arrest of two important functionaries of the CPI (Maoist) party from state capital Guwahati,both from a tribal community.
For over a year now,Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been telling the Centre that at least seven districts of the state have figured on the Maoist map. Gogoi had also pleaded with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to include these seven districts in the Integrated Action Plan so that the growth of left-wing extremists could be contained before it became a menace.
In December,Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh too asked the Centre to declare at least two districts of Assam – Dibrugarh and Tinsukia – as Maoist-dominated.
Central committee member Aklanta Rabha and Jharkhand state trainer Siraj Rabha both from the Rabha community which had figured in the clashes in Goalpara arrested last Friday,in fact are the latest among important Maoist functionaries held in the state over the past two years. Others include Indranil Chanda,Ana-nd Kharwar,Pijush Kanti Acharjee and Aditya Bora,top names in the CPI (Maoist) hierarchy. Already fighting numerous insurgent and armed groups,Assam has been on the Maoist radar for a long time,with Kishenji having called for a cordial relationship with the Northeast outfits at least four years ago.
Aklanta Rabha was once part of a now defunct group called the Rabha Protection Force that he had himself founded in 1991,and a sizeable section of the 180-odd Maoist cadres in Assam are said to have been with the ULFA or some other group before switching over to the CPI(Maoist).
Most of these cadres,who also include several women,come from the backward districts of the state including those that share inter-state boundary with neighbouring states,with the common factor between the regions being disparities in development.
Samudra is a special correspondent based in Guwahati