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Nothing new in youngsters joining ULFA-I : Sarma

Nothing new in youngsters joining ULFA-I : Sarma

Guwahati, Nov 21 (PTI) Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Wednesday said there was nothing new in youngsters from the state joining the proscribed ULFA-Independent and sought to underplay the outfit's "commander-in-chief" Paresh Baruah's nephew joining it.He attacked former chief minister Tarun Gogoi for saying that many youngsters from Assam had joined the ULFA-I during the present BJP government's rule in the state and wondered whether those arrested for being members of the outfit during the Congress regime were "fake"."There is nothing new in youngsters joining the ULFA-I. Every year, 150-200 youngsters join the outfit. If a journalist joins the insurgent group, it can be considered as a new information," Sarma said on the sidelines of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meeting in reply to reporters' queries on youngsters leaving the state to join the underground group.On the issue of Baruah's nephew Munna joining the outfit, he said, "There is nothing surprising about ULFA-I chief Paresh Baruah's nephew joining the outfit. If he (Munna) does not join the ULFA-I, then who will? Is that news?"Sarma hit out at Gogoi for his statement that many youngsters had joined the outfit during the BJP rule in the north-eastern state and said, "Was there no ULFA-I during his 15-year tenure? Were those arrested as ULFA-I members during his rule fake militants? If they were fake, then an FIR should be lodged immediately."Taking a swipe at the Congress, to which Gogoi belongs, Sarma, who is also the convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance consisting of the BJP and regional parties, said, "Like the Congress, the aging Paresh Baruah too chose his own blood as his heir to take forward his mission."Continuing his argument, the senior BJP leader said, "Because I am in the BJP, if my brother joins the BJP, that is not news. Why are yo/u (journalists) speaking like spokespersons of the ULFA-I?"Accusing the various organisations protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 of "deviating from the main issue", Sarma said, "Right now, all of us must focus on the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) or else, a number of illegal foreigners will become bona fide citizens."Assam, which had faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state to have an NRC, which was first prepared in 1951. PTI ESB KK RC