Guwahati, 21 June-2014,Simantik Dowerah: During his days as the chief of the dreaded ‘709 Battalion’ of the United Liberation Front of Asom, or Ulfa—Naba Kumar Sarania alias Hira Sarania—was one name that would send a chill down the spine. Soon after assuming charge of the deadly strike unit on 26 October 2008, he became a nightmare for the security apparatus in Assam. But things have changed today as Sarania is now technically on the other side of the fence. He now represents Kokrajhar Lok Sabha constituency in Assam as an independent MP.
The Kokrajhar seat comprises of 10 Assembly segments, eight of which are reserved for ST. Belonging to the Sarania-Kachari community, Sarania represents the often violence-prone Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Baksa apart from portions of Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Nalbari districts in Parliament.
Former Ulfa militant and Kokrajhar MP Naba Sarania. Former Ulfa militant and Kokrajhar MP Naba Sarania. The 45-year-old Sarania has quite a few first against his name. He is not only the first non-Bodo MP to represent Kokrajhar but also the first member in Parliament who was part of the Ulfa. He was arrested on 20 August 2012 in Guwahati on charges of robbery, kidnap and murder and is currently out on bail.
Seen as a new hope for the non-Bodo population in the BTAD area, Sarania has the backing of many significant non-Bodo organisations like Sanmilita Janagostiya Aikkyamancha, Obodo Suraksha Samiti, All Bodo Muslim Students’ Union and All Assam Minority Students’ Union apart from many other smaller groups.
Sarania spoke to Firstpost about his new innings as an MP, what he intends to do for Kokrajhar and what he thinks today about his past as a dreaded Ulfa insurgent.
How are you dealing with the separate state demand of the Bodos? You must be aware that the home ministry on 28 February this year had already constituted a one-man committee, under former home secretary GK Pillai, to study the feasibility of a separate state.
There is no question of a separate Bodoland state. As you know the Bodos are not in majority in the Bodoland Territorial Council. Around 75 percent of the population are non-Bodos. There are Assamese, Muslims, Adivasis, Bengalis, Nepalese and so many other people who are not Bodos. These people fear that if a separate Bodoland state is formed it would make life difficult for them and deprive them of opportunities. Simply speaking, they fear being discriminated by the minority Bodos. This should not happen. If the Centre tries to create a separate Bodoland I will vociferously protest along with my people in my constituency against such a move. I believe that the BTAD should be dissolved to give everyone a level-playing field.
You have the support of many Muslim organisations in the BTAD area. But you also have a serious problem of illegal influx by Muslim migrants from Bangladesh to the region. Due to this the area has seen so many conflicts between Bodos and Muslims. How will you stem the influx and maintain the balance?
I have a problem when the entire Muslim population of the region is viewed as illegal migrants. I am not denying about the presence of illegal migrants. If the government needs any help to expel the illegal migrants I am with them. The government must stern action against those who are not bonafide citizens. I have nothing to say there. But harassing a genuine citizen only because he or she is a Muslim is what I am against.
The divide between the Bodos and non-Bodos is widening with every passing day. How will you unite the two sides. How is your relationship with the Bodoland People’s Front chief Hagrama Mohilary and other leaders of the party? Are you now not seen as an anti-Bodo figure given the proximity you share with the non-Bodos?
Frankly speaking, only a certain political class in the Bodo community are eager to carry on this divide for their own political and personal gains. The common Bodo people want a peaceful co-existence and seek development and progress in their lives. There should be a proper constitutional analysis to ensure there is equal development for all. All that people on the ground want is a life with dignity and equal distribution of resources. There cannot be a situation where the majority is sidelined and the minority gets all the benefits. And regarding Hagrama Mohilary and other leaders of the Bodoland People’s Front, none of the leaders are in touch with me.
As an independent Member of Parliament how much support do you hope to get from the Centre and the state government? Are you planning to join any political party in the future?
My constituency Kokrajhar is not some alien land outside India. It is a part of the country. This is enough reason making it pertinent for the state and Central governments to think of the well-being of the people. I am sure whoever is in power be it in the state or Centre won’t think in lines of Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party when the development of the people is concerned. I believe me being an independent MP won’t be an impediment in executing any government scheme in my constituency. Kokrajhar should not be deprived of any government scheme. And regarding me joining any political party, the answer is no.
What made you suddenly join politics? You took everyone by surprise.
(Laughs) Whatever I am doing, I am doing it for Assam. I don’t have any political ambition. The people in my constituency wanted me to represent them in Parliament and I am just fulfilling their wishes. They believe I can do something good for them. I am actually trying to make my stint as an MP meaningful for them. As I already said before, I seek development, unity and peace in my constituency. I want both the Bodos and non-Bosdos to prosper together.
The pro-talk Ulfa group led by Arabinda Rajkhowa expressed unhappiness over your decision to fight the election. What is your message to them and also to Paresh Barua?
Few leaders of the Rajkhowa group did have an issue with me fighting the polls. But let me tell you they are only a handful of them. If you ask me in numbers 405 of the pro-talk faction supported my decision to contest the election. What I hear is some of those who are against me have done it for money or for some other personal ambition. I won’t take names here. For the anti-talk Paresh Baruah faction, I have nothing to say. They are doing what they believe is right for Assam in their own way. I won’t comment on their method.
You have a lot of serious court cases as mentioned in your affidavit running against you. If convicted you won’t remain an MP any longer. Are you worried about that?
I am not worried about it. I will do my job as long as I am an MP without any discrimination for anyone. The process of law will continue and so far as I am not convicted I cannot be judged guilty as well.
When you were the chief of the dreaded 709 battalion of the Ulfa, you literally unleashed a reign of terror in Assam. Do you regret your past. Is being an MP kind of penance for you?
I had joined Ulfa in 1990 to do something better for the people of Assam. The love for my state and my people have always been supreme in my life. During my Ulfa days, I have not harmed a single innocent person. Had I done that people would not have voted for me in large numbers. Therefore I have no regrets for what I did as a Ulfa member. Even those actively involved with the Ulfa are doing it for the love of Assam. But in any case I want an amicable solution to the issue which satisfies all the sides — the Centre, state and Ulfa. I won’t share what I have in my mind now but if I am called to be a part of the peace process I would certainly contribute. I am all for living unitedly and peacefully. [Input Source: FP]