Former Ulfa militants in Assam makes masks for armymen

Former Ulfa militants in Assam makes masks for armymen to fight COVID-19

The Army unit provided Rs 20 for each mask and this helped our women members earn some money," Dulumoni Gogoi, a former Ulfa cadre told DH from Darrang on Thursday.

Some had taken up arms in the 90s to fight the security forces when militancy in Assam was at its peak. Some others married cadres of Ulfa, a militant group and equally supported their "game plan" before bidding farewell to arms 10 to 20 years ago.

The current fear of COVID-19, however, has not only prompted the former women cadres of Ulfa or their family members to take up mask making for themselves but also for an Army unit, which now helps them earn their livelihood.

CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL COVERAGE ONLY ON DH

Juthika Nath, Chintamoni Kalita, Binapani Deka, Sangrami Choudhury and Kabita Choudhury have already stitched more than 1,000 triple-layer and double-layer masks and supplied to the 14 Garhwal Regiment of the Army posted in Darrang district.

"Most of them learnt weaving at their homes since childhood. But they took it up for earning after leaving Ulfa," Dulumoni Gogoi, a former Ulfa cadre told DH from Darrang on Thursday. "Like Rongali Bihu every year, this time they prepared over 1,000 gamosas (traditional Assamese towel). But since the gamosas remained unsold due to the lockdown, they used them to stitch masks for protection against coronavirus. They decided to supply the masks to the Army camp. The Army unit provided Rs 20 for each mask and this helped our women members earn some money."

For latest updates and live news on coronavirus, click here

Dulumoni alias Dilip Deka, a resident of Darrang had joined Ulfa in 1989 and was arrested by the Army in 1994. He spent 27-months in jail before he decided to take "voluntary retirement" from the banned outfit in 2000. "We did not get any rehabilitation package from the government. So it was difficult to run our family," Deka, father of two daughters said.

When Ulfa Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and general secretary Anup Chetia joined the peace talks with the government in 2011-12, they approached the leaders for help.

Around 45 former Ulfa cadres formed Development Action for Social Transformation in Rural (DAST-R), an NGO in 2017 and took up agriculture, horticulture, fishery, weaving and other income-generating activities in Darrnag district.

"Two officers from the Army unit, who visited us a few months ago provided sewing machines for setting up a tailoring unit for our women members. So we decided that we should now give something back at a time we all are fighting the Covid-19. So we provided the masks for their safety.

We once fought and even attacked the Army but since we have come back to the mainstream, it is our responsibility to help our security forces for safety and security of our nation," Gogoi said. The women unit has set a target to make 10,000 masks.