In a brutal backtracking, after gunning down 17 non-Assamese workers on Friday in the Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, the ULFA went on a rampage on Saturday gunning down migrant workers from Bihar and Bengal.
Assam is a state in North East India bordering West Bengal, and Bangladesh, and there has always been a lot of tension between the ethnic Assamese and Banglas from both sides of the border. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) purports to speak for the Assamese and has been waging a violent armed struggle. Unfortunately, they are not really powerful enough to take on the Indian army and usually take their frustrations out on innocent day laborers. The Assamese feel that Banglas and Biharis are coming into their state and taking their jobs and disrupting their culture. Like any other ethnic situation in India, it is complex, messy, and with no “right” or “easy” solutions. Clearly, increased development in neighboring states would keep the Banglas and Biharis from moving. But, thanks to its oil reserves, the jobs are in Assam. The Indian army has been active in this area as a counter insurgency force since the ’80s. Complicating the matter are the mountainous terrain and the remoteness of most of these attacks.