For decades in Manipur, operations by the Army and/or Assam Rifles functioning under its command against insurgent groups, who converted to terrorism since the 1990s, have been interspersed by surrenders. Except for very few, who actually surrendered voluntarily after realizing the futility of their activities, most collective surrenders came about following the capture of key leaders, who were convinced or coerced by Army, Assam Rifles or police officers to do so with their cadres. But even when such surrenders were done with handing over of sophisticated arms, neither has any of them led to the process of insurgency/terrorism ending in the Manipur, nor did these surrenders ever lead to permanent disbandment of any group for obvious reasons. But that does not mean that security forces should not keep trying to effect these surrenders.
Continuing the series of successful efforts to get the convince terrorists to come back to their homes and join the mainstream, 16 hardcore cadres of various banned outfits laid down arms before Mr Y Joy Kumar, Director General Police, Manipur, in the presence of Maj Gen CA Krishnan, AVSM, Inspector General, Assam Rifles (IGAR) (South) in a simple surrender ceremony held at the HQ IGAR (S), at Mantripukhri, Imphal, on 09 August 2011. The homecoming of these youth is a result of persistent efforts by the units of Assam Rifles under the aegis of HQ IGAR (South), who have been motivating their families and relatives to encourage these youth to give up weapons and join the mainstream.
The 16 undergrounds who surrendered include three from United National Liberation Front (UNLF), two from Peoples Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) (S), one from Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup KYKL (Oken), one from Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) (Noyon), four from Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA), two from United Tribal Liberation Army UTLA and three from s People’s United Liberation Front (PULF). The weapons laid down included six AK rifles, two M-16 rifles, one US made carbine, one Lathode gun, three 9 mm Pistol, one .32 pistol, one .38 Revolver, one M-22 pistol and a large amount of ammunition. The ceremony was also attended by a large number of family members of the cadres and some of the village elders.
Speaking at the surrender ceremony, Manipur DGP Y Joy Kumar expressed his appreciation of the peaceful surrender by these cadres with their weapons and felt that it would definitely be a guiding beacon for other misled youth to follow suit, paving way for peace and harmony in the state. Welcoming the youth to the mainstream of the civil society, the DGP also assured all help and facilities which can be provided by the state government under the state’s existing surrender policy to the surrendered cadres.
Maj Gen CA Krishnan, AVSM, IGAR(South) mentioned that more and more misled youth are being encouraged to abjure violence, lay down arms and join the main stream. He also said that those who show courage and lay down arms require support from all sections of the society to reintegrate with the main stream and highlighted the need for all sections to extend support to them.
It may be recalled that since April 2010, a total of 182 misled youth surrendered with arms to Assam Rifles at Imphal. Misled young men laying down weapons and returning to mainstreams is a testimony of a encouraging trend in Manipur. Apart from these 182 cadres, Assam Rifles in Manipur also succeeded in facilitating signing of the tripartite agreement by the first valley based insurgent group, the KCP (MC) Lallumba group in July 2010, which resulted in 122 cadres of the group laid down weapons. While no doubt such a large number of surrenders came about owing to relentless efforts of Assam Rifles, it certainly does not mean the end of these movements. Statements issued by all the outfits denying that any of their cadres surrendered, only indicate that they have no intention of letting up on terrorist violence and extortion.
Assam Rifles has also been making efforts to organize rehabilitation programmes through vocational training for the surrenderees in Manipur and outside the state. Over 127 such cadres who had earlier surrendered were rehabilitated through an intensive spiritual and vocational training programme conducted with the help of the Art of Living Foundation, The Bengaluru based NGO. Apart from spiritual motivation, surrendered youth were imparted training in computers, electrician, fridge and air conditioner repair, auto mechanic, mobile phone repair, farming, food processing etc. Self help groups have been formed to train and enable these youth to start their own businesses like piggery, poultry, fishery and taxi service.. Interested cadres are also being assisted for enrolment into ITBP, CRPF and Assam Rifles.
While these surrenders are a silver lining and in 2010 there was a reduction in terrorist incidents and fatalities, compared to earlier years there is still more than enough terrorist activity on by all the groups mentioned and more.
This year, after targeting employees in the education, banking and hospitality sectors, terrorists in Manipur are now targeting labourers. The latest to join the fray are Kuki groups with threats like "Pay Rs one crore or your husbands will be killed." sent out to three families in Thoubal district of Manipur whose earning members were finally abducted on July 29. "I am very sick and have three children. When I got to know about my husband's abduction, I broke down. I do not know what to do and what to say. What will they get from my husband? We are such a poor family. I request them to release my husband safely," said Meghechen, wife of Sarat Singh. A labourer is reported to lament: "They are demanding one crore in ransom for the safe release of these people. We are poor laborers and just earn a daily livelihood. We cannot pay such huge amounts. Militants should understand that we cannot get so much money."
Last year non-Manipuris were targeted in a major way. Having extorted money time and again from non Manipuri traders and business men, the Meitei terrorist groups intimidated them enough for at least two hundred Sikh families to leave the State permanently. Many of these are families who have been in Manipur or neighbouring Burma/Myanmar for many decades to over a century. Marwaris too have been paying large amounts as ‘taxes’ and are yet threatened.
Such crimes by terrorists as well as abductions and killings of innocents continue mainly because of lack of governance and the widely and frequently reported nexus between ruling political leaders and terrorist groups.
A new development been reported from Darjeeling on August 4, 2011 is that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) found out that KYKL has been set up bases in the region by using residents of Darjeeling and Sikkim. NIA investigated the KYKL activities in the region and submitted a supplementary charge-sheet to the Darjeeling district and session court, following the arrest of many KYKL members from the region in 2010.
Sources involved in the investigation are reported to have said the outfit had set up bases in Kurseong, Khaprail and even in Sikkim. The members of the organization reportedly used to send money from Manipur to their counterparts who had set up a base in the region for investment in real estate. This is how extorted money is being invested. The local people, who were unaware of the militants’ antecedents, were lured into the business. According to sources, these terrorists had bought large tracts of lands in Jalpaiguri and Siliguri areas and had already constructed two three-storied buildings in Kurseong and Gangtok. Some KYKL members arrested by the NIA from Khaprail, Siliguri and other places since March 2010 are self-styled ‘army commander-in-chief’ and finance-in-charge of the outfit, Ningthoujam Tomba, along with Sonokhybam Memcha, Roma Chanu, Sorokhaibhem Menjor Singh and Kangunjam Rabi Kumar Singh, had been arrested from “During the investigation, it has also been established that Chirom Robert Meitei, Kongkham Tomba Singh, Asem Naoba Singh, Ch. Leishemba, along with the arrested man Ningthoujam Tomba, had entered into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the state,” the source reportedly added. Chirom Robert Meitei was the information and publicity secretary of the outfit.
The larger plan of sending money to the Darjeeling-Sikkim region is tosend it to KYKL agents in Nepal, from where the money would be routed to Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore to procure arms. This forms another part of the Chinese connection with North Eastern terrorists, which this daily has elaborated on earlier.
Now that NIA has made some significant progress of capturing top leaders like Antony Shimray of the Issac-Muivah group of National Socialist Council of Nagaland/Nagalim and RK Meghen of UNLF, it should press forth relentlessly and catch more. But even then terrorism in the North East will not end till the reported nexus between politicians and these groups is not severed meaningfully? Is there any hope of the political will required to be put into effect?
Col Anil Bhat (Retd) is Editor, WordSword Features & Media and a defence analyst based in New Delhi
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).