Guwahati: ULFA 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa on Tuesday said he went to Pakistan when Operation Bajrang was launched in Assam in 1990 but denied the group was backed by Islamic fundamentalists of that country.

"We did go to Pakistan during 'Operation Bajrang. We went to Pakistan because at that time, the situation was different. The enemy of an enemy is our friend. There was an Assam-India conflict,” said Rajkhowa.

"Just because we went there, does not mean that Pakistan gave us all our weapons. Like other outfits, we acquired our weapons from various sources, including from arms dealers, other groups, etc.

"Our organisation is against communalism and fundamentalism. Therefore, the question of us siding up with fundamentalist groups does not arise at all," he said, reacting to media reports about the ULFA being backed by Pakistani Islamic fundamentalists.

"We not only went to Pakistan, but to Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar. We also went to Europe and international bodies to garner support for our cause. Staying in a country does not mean that the country helped us," he said.

"There are also reports about China helping us. If such a big powerful country was helping us, then we would have long time back made Assam independent," he said.

Operation Bajrang was launched by army on November 28, 1990 in Assam to flush out ULFA militants.

No split in ULFA


Meanwhile, ULFA 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa denied there was a split in the group and claimed that 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua, reportedly opposed to the ongoing peace process, also wanted a solution to the 32-year- old conflict.

"There is no split in the ULFA. There are no factions. It is only the media which says one faction is led by Paresh Barua and another by Arabinda Rajkhowa," said Rajkhowa in an interview.

"Paresh Baruah as the 'commander-in-chief' of our organisation may want a military solution and I as the head of the organisation want a political solution ... but both of us want a solution to the conflict," he said.

Asked if he has spoken with Baruah to be present at the peace talks, he said, "He is interested, but has doubts about how much we can trust the government of India.

"Besides, he has never himself opposed the talks. It is only a person by the name of Arun Udoy Dohotia who issues press statements opposing the talks," he claimed.

"I am in touch with Barua. Not much can be spoken on phone except for asking about each other's welfare. Such important matters relating to the peace talks cannot be discussed on the phone."

He said discussions had to be held face to face with all executive council members based on the collective leadership principle. "During our last executive council meeting (in July), we did ask Paresh Baruah to participate in the peace process in the interest of the people," Rajkhowa said.

On the possibility of negative impact of Barua's absence at the just-begun peace talks, he said, "This is doubt in the mind of the media. The government of India has made no demand that he has to be present at the talks or for that matter all our cadres in the jungles have to come out.”

"Even without Baruah the talks have taken place and the peace process is progressing. Baruah knows that our organisation's aim is resolution of the Assam-India conflict."

He also alleged "a tendency is seen in certain quarters not to give us our due and what they think about us is their individual matter, but they cannot deprive us of our self-respect. We are not a toothless snake."

On Dohotia issuing press statements, Rajkhowa said, "As per our constitution there is no existence of a person by that name. We, therefore, give no recognition to the statements given out by Dohotia in the name of Paresh Baruah against the talks.

(Agencies)