Assam Rifles Strikes At Roots: Funding Of Ultras Via Arms Smuggling; Maoist Nexus Stalled

(MENAFN- IANS) By Nirendra Dev
New Delhi/Dimapur, June 4 (IANS) They are already calling it a low-intensity breakthrough but with big ramifications. The surrender of 39 militants of Adivasi People's Liberation army (APLA) at Bokajan in Assam on June 2 was a major breakthrough from a security and strategic point of view in more ways than one.
This 'achievement' will leave recurring benefits in months to come for security forces and Police in key northeastern states.
"Not only outfits and extortion gangs in Assam, even groups in Nagaland and Manipur will feel the pinch of this breakthrough," sources said.
The episode highlights what was being apprehended for decades now.
Militancy in northeast or states such as Assam and Nagaland are no longer confined to mere anti-India insurgency. The operatives have started establishing working relations with Maoist groups in far off Jharkhand and this has only added complexity to the challenges.
The APLA was formed in 2004 to 'work' for tea tribe communities. The group has been demanding Scheduled Tribe status for tea-tribe communities in Assam and also took up Robindhood style roles and engaged themselves in launching schools for children and ensuring 'Land Pattas' for the community people.
Sources say one round of surrender by Adivasi National Liberation Army (ANLA) in 2012 was important but the community's unrest remained unabated. Sahil Munda took up the rebellion with his gang and slowly it approached the Jharkhand-based Maoist organisation, People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI).
The assistance and coordination was so smooth that PLFI -Assam unit was set up and the group became active.
But more than indulging in violence or other militancy-related activities, the PLFI - Assam unit focused on arms smuggling and this involved good flow of cash.
The group also got active in extortion in the Khatkhati area of Karbianglong region and also Assam-Nagaland border.
Notably, Sahil Munda could enlist active cooperation and support from two other fellow comrades from ANLA - Agustine Gogoi and Vijay Sona. They formalised the designations among themselves with Munda becoming Commander in chief, Augustine Deputy Commander in chief and Vijay Sona became chairman of APLA.
"As the extortion and arms smuggling operations mainly focused along the Nagaland-Assam border, Assam Rifles established strong coordination with Assam police and gradually mounted pressure on the wrongdoers," a source told this journalist.
Sahil Munda reportedly tried to explore avenues for striking deals with security forces and approached Golaghat police in Assam. But in March 2022 he was apprehended by Assam police. A few weeks later on April 10, 2022, three more APLA militants were arrested.
However, after Munda was released on bail he went missing. Sources further said Agustine Gogoi took up another identity under the name of Amar Singh Karmakar and reportedly even "engaged in friendship with the NSCN-IM".
In between security forces got inputs that Sahil Munda had got in touch with another Naga group -- the NSCN-led by Nikki Sumi and was possibly 'hiding' with their support. The efforts of security forces to trace him at the Nikki Sumi camp proved futile.
Either the inputs were wrong or Sahil had moved out fearing arrest by security forces.
"In the meantime, officers and personnel of 43 Assam Rifles got active and could sustain more pressure on APLA leadership and cadres as the arms smuggling along Nagaland-Assam border was check-mated.
"Things followed according to script and finally on June 2, 39 APLA militant leaders and cadres laid down arms before authorities," the source added.
On June 2, the surrendered militants also laid down a total of 31 weapons including 3 AK series Rifles, 19 Pistols, 5 other rifles, 2 grenades and assorted live ammunition today and have chosen a path of peace and prosperity under 'operation Samarpan'.
An official said the anti-insurgency crack team from Assam Rifles under the aegis of Inspector General Assam Rifles (North) Maj Gen Vikas Lakhera and Spear Corps in conjunction with Assam Police, through their relentless efforts "have successfully pursued homecoming of 39 active cadres of Adivasi People's Liberation Army (APLA)".
"Assam Rifles compliment the youth for this decision and impress upon all those who have chosen the wrong path to return into the mainstream and live a happy and peaceful life. Families of the surrendered cadres expressed their gratitude to the Security Forces for bringing their loved ones back to the family safely," an official release said.
(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of the books 'The Talking Guns: North East India', and 'Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth'. Views expressed are personal)



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