Monday, December 12, 2011

Northeast update (December 12, 2011)

1) GNLA and Champion Sangma: Linky

Champion R Sangma, a top leader of Indian separatist Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), has been arrested in Bangladesh, an Indian newspaper reported yesterday. The Hindustan Times quoted a Meghalaya top police officer as saying, "We are confirmed by the central intelligence agencies that Champion has been arrested from Mymensingh district (Bangladesh) by Rab commandos." The rebel leader would be handed over to India soon, said the officer, asking not to be named. Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), however, denied the arrest. “We did not make the arrest of Indian separatist named Champion R Sangma from Mymensingh,” Rab intelligence wing chief Lt Col Ziaul Ahsan told The Daily Star yesterday.

Here is this tidbit of information: linky

Intelligence officials here said that Champion was arrested yesterday night from a house of a tribal Bangladesh politician in Mymensingh district by the RAB commandos. In fact, in July this year, there were reports that Bangladesh authorities had launched a massive manhunt to nab him.

Conrad Sangma say-eth: Linky

Meanwhile, Sangma cautioned the government of being too enthusiastic about Champion’s arrest if at all it was true. “He (Champion) was always away from Garo Hills, according to intelligence reports. Most of the other cadres worked without his guidance, so his arrests would not make so much of an impact on the GNLA,” he added.

Sentinel adds: Linky

The C-in-C of the GNLA Sohan D Shira is learnt to have lost contact with Champion Sangma in the past 24 hours.

Here is some more drama: Linky

“Money has been sought for the release of the chief of GNLA, Champion R Sangma, who is believed to be in detention in Bangladesh”, a police source today claimed. This has been established in the course of the interrogation of GNLA aide Jackiush A Sangma, who was nabbed in an arms deal in the city recently and is now in police custody. Reportedly, on November 24, GNLA aide Jackiush A Sangma and an arms dealer from Dimapur, Nagaland Pungam Hangal along with four others landed in police net while trying to make an arms deal in Shillong. Cash amounting to Rs 11.49 lakh along with 400 live ammunitions were seized from their possession.

Police sources, on condition of anonymity, divulged that in the course of grilling Jakiush received a call on his cell phone from Bangladesh. Though he turned panicky in presence of the police interrogators, he was directed to take the call with the speaker phone. And they listened to the voice across the border which turned out to be that of the mistress of Champion, Simche from Rongara area, asking Jackiush to transfer money to Bangladesh immediately for Champion’s bail.

During the conversation Jackiush asked her about her whereabouts, but she just told him to transfer the money immediately and hung up. Jackuish has stated that Simche frequently visits Bangladesh and had returned a day before Champion’s arrest.

More mystery: Linky

Sources have informed that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is doing the paper work for extradition of Champion to India from Bangladesh. The entire process is expected to take about one week after the finalization of which, the Bangladesh is expected to hand over Champion to MHA. It may be recalled that Meghalaya Times has been the sole English daily to confirm arrest of Champion in Bangladesh. Later, even the GNLA C-in-C Sohan D Shira confirmed his arrest.

Remarkable if the following is true: Linky and repeated here Linky

Obsession with social networking can be a giveaway, more so if you are the chief of a rebel outfit. Facebook addiction is believed to have done former police officer turned rebel leader Champion Sangma in. Chairman of the Meghalaya-based Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Sangma is reportedly in Mymensingh Central Jail in Bangladesh, where he was arrested on November 24. There is no official confirmation of his incarceration. According to intelligence officials in Meghalaya, Sangma was almost always logged on to Facebook, updating his profile, writing on walls or tagging people. He had also posted his pictures, besides those of his cadre, from undisclosed locations.

“He was using the social networking site to upload everything, and it was a matter of time before his URL was found indicating the area from where he was operating,” a senior intelligence officer said. Indian officials subsequently tipped off their Bangladesh counterparts to help them zero in on Sangma, who formed the GNLA in 2009 after deserting the Meghalaya Police where he was a deputy superintendent. The intelligence officer said Sangma was produced in a court in Mymensingh town two days after his arrest and was sent to jail for being a ‘terrorist’. Sangma, surprisingly, did not try to conceal his identity as the GNLA chief. “The GNLA leader was apparently homesick and missed the people belonging to his (Garo) tribe. This could have led him to be in touch with friends through Facebook,” the officer said.

Odhikaar cites a July 7 report to say: Linky

Champion R Sangma, Chairman of Garo National Liberation Army, an organisation for self determination in Meghalaya in India, was arrested recently from Modhupur of Tangail district in Bangladesh. This was also reported in the media in Meghalaya and Assam. It was reported in some newspapers, including Garo Hills and Meghalaya News that the leader of the GNLA, Champion R Sangma has been detained in Bangladesh.

Here is some pontification: Linky

It may be mentioned here that in 2009 when ULFA Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa had been arrested in Bangladesh and handed over to India, the Bangladeshi authorities then too had denied any information or arrest of ULFA Chief. Given the above fact, the denial of information on Champion is nothing surprising. However, this has given rise to two theories; one could be that Bangladesh will set him free once the demanded amount is paid. The second theory suggests that Champion’s case is being kept under tight veil due to his political connection, both in India and in Bangladesh.

We will know what BD gets in return from India for this barter in case Champion Sangma is indeed in their catch. Its a big catch though. Meanwhile, Linky

All eyes have turned on self-styled commander-in-chief of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Sohan D. Shira, following the reported arrest of the outfit’s chairman, Champion Sangma, in Bangladesh. Police, too, have stepped up the hunt for the rebel leader to neutralise the GNLA once and for all. It was Shira and Sangma who got together to form GNLA towards the end of 2009. Sources said Shira was the brain behind many attacks on police personnel and civilians besides the outfit’s kidnapping and extortion.
...
Prior to formation of the GNLA and after deserting the ANVC, Shira had planned to join another militant group — the Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF) led by commander-in-chief Peter Marak, who was a former police commando. However, Marak was killed in an alleged fake encounter and subsequently, Sohan surrendered, before disappearing again and resurfacing as the GNLA commander- in-chief.

On and on the thinking process goes: Linky

The Centre is studying the pros and cons of banning the Garo National Liberation Army after the state government submitted a report to the Union home ministry in this regard. “We recently received the report from the Meghalaya government which suggests the need to ban the GNLA,” Shambhu Singh, joint secretary, ministry of home affairs, (Northeast) said over phone from Delhi. He said there was a process to be followed before declaring any organisation unlawful and ultimately it is upto the Union cabinet to decide. He added that the Centre would go by what the state government says. The official said the ban might only add to the outfit’s importance but he added that if the organisation’s activities continued to be violent, there was no other option than to ban the outfit.

ANVC-GNLA: Linky

The GNLA cadres are intimidating the ANVC members in Williamnagar on the order of their self-styled commander-in-chief Sohan D. Shira. The spokesman for the Achik National Volunteers Council, Torik Marak, alleged that Shira had issued orders to his GNLA men to attack the ANVC cadres at Williamnagar in East Garo Hills. “The ANVC cadres are also getting threat calls and if our cadres come under the attack from the GNLA, it will surely derail the peace process,” Marak said. The ANVC is under ceasefire since 2004 and its leaders wanted the government to take note of the frequent threats to the outfit’s cadres in Garo hills. The GNLA and the ANVC have been at loggerheads over supremacy in Garo hills.

Elsewhere, Linky

The Centre has asked the state government to firm up its mind on the demand of the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC), currently under ceasefire, to have a Garoland Autonomous Council (GAC) on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council. The recent signing of a settlement with the United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) has also prompted the Centre to speed up finalising settlements with other militants groups in the Northeast. While ANVC spokesperson Torik Marak said as many as three reminders were sent to the state government by the Centre, a Union home ministry official said several reminders were sent to the Meghalaya government for its comments on the demand of the ANVC, which had entered into a tripartite agreement with both the Centre and the state in 2004.
...
The ANVC, formed in 1995, had launched an armed struggle to achieve the creation of a homeland exclusively for the Garos within the framework of the Constitution. The concept of “Garoland” christened by the ANVC extends to geographical areas of Goalpara and Kamrup districts of Assam which are pre-dominantly inhabited by the Garos, besides the three districts of Garo hills and the areas which are contiguous to Garo hills in West Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi districts of Meghalaya.
...
A state government official said the delay on the part of the government in deciding on demand of the ANVC was because of the apprehension that there would be clash of powers between the existing GHADC and the proposed GAC. Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma last month said the state government wanted clarity on certain issues as demanded by the ANVC before submitting its views to the Centre.

2) Along this direction, more on the UPDS ceasefire and disbanding: Linky

The United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) will formally lay down arms on December 14 and will be disbanded the next day. These dates were finalised by Dispur today and conveyed to Kabri Anglong deputy commissioner Rakesh Kumar through a letter from Raj Bhavan. Kumar then invited the UPDS leaders to his house for a discussion. The arms-surrender ceremony will take place at 11am on Wednesday on the Karbi Anglong Sports Association ground at Diphu. Next day, the outfit will be disbanded in another ceremony at the same venue. The UPDS had signed a peace accord with the Centre on November 25, laying the foundation for a political overhaul in the hill district, including the creation of a more potent Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council and a comprehensive administrative reorganisation.

UPDS calls for polls by state commission Linky

Dispur and United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) are on a collision course with the latter demanding that the forthcoming election to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council be conducted by the State Election Commission, Assam, instead of the hill areas department. A joint delegation of the UPDS and the People’s Alliance for Peace Agreement — a conglomeration of several political parties and non-government organisations of Karbi Anglong district — called on Assam governor J.B. Patnaik today and submitted a memorandum stating their demands.

This is what the final wrangling was for: Linky

UPDS, a militant group from the Karbi Anglong district of Assam, has given up its demand of a separate state under Article 3 of Constitution or “state within the state of Assam under Article 244A because of the absence of a policy at the Centre”, a senior leader of the UPDS told this correspondent. The UPDS, however, has been able to extract more autonomy from Delhi and Dispur. This is balm for the UPA, disturbed as it is by the Telangana movement and other demands like that of Bodoland in Assam.

Following the settlement, the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) will now be Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council (KAATC). The new council will have 44 elected and six nominated members and 62 departments with legislative, executive and direct financial powers, a UPDS leader said. The MoS will be signed by Home Ministry joint secretary Shambhu Singh in presence of UPDS chairman Longsodar Senar and general secretary Horensing Bey. There will be a 13-member political wing of the UPDS in addition to four members of its army in the Capital.

Despite absence of an understanding with the KLNLF, the UPDS has gone ahead with the interim accord. We are hoping that the reactions would be good, said a delegation member. The accord was finalised in 2009 and another discussion with the Centre took place on 23 December last year when the KLNLF was asked to accept the present conditions. The latter did not accept the negotiated settlement.

Meanwhile UPDS-KPLT nexus: Linky

A section of UPDS cadres was allegedly aiding Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) to carry out unlawful activities in Karbi Anglong district. Though the UPDS signed a peace accord with the Centre, security agencies claimed to have stumbled on evidence of a collusion between some UPDS cadres and the KPLT. “Though the UPDS is in ceasefire since 2002 and has also signed the peace accord on November 25, some of its cadres are colluding with the KPLT which is responsible for most of the recent violent attacks in Karbi Anglong,” an official source told The Telegraph today. He said interrogation of self-styled foreign secretary of KPLT Maniram Rongpi, who was a member of UPDS, had shed light on a secret understanding between a section of UPDS cadres and the Karbi outfit. The KPLT is a breakaway faction of the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF). It was formed on January 8, 2011 after the KLNLF entered into a ceasefire with the government last year.

3) The DHD(J) saga: Linky

The Nepal government has ordered an inquiry into how Niranjan Hojai, a militant leader of Assam, could acquire a citizenship certificate of the country. The commander-in-chief of the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) had procured a Nepali citizenship certificate from Sunsari district in the neighbouring country using fake name, Nirmal Rai, in 2007. An official source told The Telegraph that on the request of New Delhi, the Nepal government has asked the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal police to conduct an inquiry into how the citizenship certificate was procured. According to the source, the CIB has also been asked to investigate whether the certificate is genuine or forged. “If it is genuine, the CIB will investigate how a citizenship certificate was issued to an Indian citizen, who was also a most wanted fugitive, and will fix responsibilities on those who issued the document,” he said. “Even if it is forged, the investigating agency will try to find the source from where he got the fake certificate,” he added.

Both India and Nepal have taken this matter seriously since Hojai used this citizen certificate to get a Nepali passport in the name of Nirmal Rai in 2008 and travelled to countries like China, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and South Africa for procurement of arms. Based on that passport, the DHD-J leader was issued a Chinese visa with a validity of three months (December 8, 2008 to March 8, 2009). The investigators got the details of his foreign visits from the visa attachments on his passport.

Hojai, who had disguised himself as a businessman, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Nepal in July last year. The source said the CIB has also sought help from the banks in Nepal to trace the bank accounts linked to Hojai and his wife Sarita Giri Rai. Nepal police recently arrested Hojai’s wife Sarita, hailing from Sindhupalchowk district in Nepal, and seized $200,000 remitted to her account at New Baneshwor branch of Everest Bank from an account in a Citibank branch in Singapore, which allegedly belongs to Hojai. India has requested the Singapore government to investigate the Citibank account, which was allegedly used by Hojai for funding militant activities. Security agencies also claim that Hojai had also set up a private company in Singapore. The source said Hojai married Sarita — in her thirties — around two years ago, and the couple have a daughter. Nepal police had also charged Sarita with money laundering and terror financing. According to the source, Hojai had bought her a luxurious house at Jorpati in eastern Kathmandu and several high-end cars worth crores of rupees from illegally acquired proceeds and terror funds.

Meanwhile, Hojai detained for fracas, cuffs on aides Linky
4) Pro-talks ULFA faction: Linky

The pro-talks leader said although the group had a pre-condition of not taking part in the any anti-insurgency operations like Sulfa before declaring a ceasefire a few years back, it had to change its stand after the Paresh Barua-led group threatened to carry out attacks on them. The pro-talks leader said they had also provided information about the location of Ulfa camps in Myanmar and the general routes frequently used by the cadres to travel to these camps through Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. It has been a success story for the security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Upper Assam in recent times with Ulfa failing to carry out any major strikes

5) Anti-infra groups and interests: Linky

Indigenous communities of Chandel district in Manipur and Sagaing division of Myanmar stood up for a common cause here today — to prevent formation of a reservoir the size of Delhi on the Chindwin river in Myanmar. The protest organised by Kuki tribals straddling the international border was small but the timing has caused consternation among strategists in Delhi. The protests come close on heels of the forced withdrawal of the Chinese from building a project in northern Myanmar — a loss of Rs 3 billion besides a loss of face for Beijing. The military government at Naypyitaw together with the government of India is building a hydroelectric dam near Tamanthi on the Chindwin in northwest Myanmar’s Sagaing division.

Slash dam heights: Expert panel - Decision at meeting in Delhi on Lohit hydroelectric projects Linky
Neighbors fight as Tuki allays Assam’s dam fears - Arunachal CM lists project benefits, refutes rumours about links with NSCN LInky
More neighbors fight as Khaleda plea over Tipaimukh project - BNP leader writes to Manmohan Singh Linky, however Delhi calms Dhaka on Tipaimukh Linky
Meghalaya rail connectivity hits influx wall Linky
6) UAPA and terrorist groups ban: Linky

The Centre is mulling withdrawal of the ban on two rebel outfits of Tripura — the All Tripura Tiger Force and National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) — in view of the decline in insurgent activities in the state. The withdrawal of the ban on some other insurgent outfits of the Northeast is also being considered. Disclosing this, sources here said the Centre had recently constituted a tribunal headed by sitting Delhi High Court judge Bipin Sanghi to go into the issue and make suggestions. The tribunal had subsequently sent questionnaires to state governments and security agencies seeking their views on the issue, a source said. A state government official here said, “We have not yet decided on the matter but discussions are on. Very soon we are going to file our replies to the tribunal.”

7) India-BD border fencing: Linky

The Centre today agreed to a suggestion made by the Meghalaya government to undertake single-row fencing along the Zero Line in those areas along the Indo-Bangla border where people are objecting to the 150-yard buffer. The agreement was reached at a meeting held at the secretariat here between Union home ministry and state government officials. According to an official who attended the meeting, the fencing would be undertaken in those areas where people were not happy with the decision to set up the fence 150 yards inside Zero Line. The decision was also taken to ensure that no further land was lost along the border.

And Erosion threatens border fence, something that happens with remarkable regularity: Linky

Abdul Salam Akon, a young man of the same village, said the erosion cut off the mainland as Kaljani moved like a serpent, falling into Bangladesh. As a result, the villagers of Gour Jhapusabari had to come to travel through Bangladesh to reach India. “If measures are not taken to divert the Kaljani to its main channel, then the area adjacent to Bangladesh might one day be claimed by that country,” Akon said. Villagers said since 2006, more than 400 bighas of fertile land of this revenue village were eroded and nearly 600 villagers displaced, who took shelter in nearby villages like Ramraikuti, Satrasal and Kherbari.

Land-swap deal triggers paranoia - Peasants want to sell off farms Linky

Fenced out in 1987 and paranoid after the Indo-Bangladesh land-swap deal, a group of farmers near the Dhubri border wants the government to buy their land before it is handed over to the neighbouring country. The hand-over is not imminent, since the area is neither disputed, nor under adverse possession of Bangladesh, but residents of Biskhowa in Golokgunj — 134km from Boroibari, where 571 bighas are to be handed over to Bangladesh if the land-swap deal is ratified by both Parliaments — are wary.

After the fence cut off their farms in 1987, the farmers struggled to raise their crops, having to heed border gate timings. Produce dwindled, as did their profits, but they survived. Now, with the Indo-Bangla land-swap deal, they fear that someday another turn of events would snatch their land and sustenance and turn them into paupers.

Upgrading the border outposts: Linky

The BSF has started upgrading border outposts along the Indio-Bangla border converting the current makeshift bamboo and timber structures to concrete ones. In earlier phases of modernisation, the BSF had upgraded its arsenal to add more teeth to its anti-infiltration drive along the border.

8) HPC-D:

The 35-member team of Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) headed jointly by David and Oliver Hmar today announced a unilateral ceasefire (in UB Photos picture above) in the “interest of peace”. David told reporters that the military wing of the outfit would cease all operations till the Centre and state government came forward for a political dialogue. A Dima Hasao police source said decision of the outfit to go for ceasefire was after constant pressure from security forces.

More on HPC-D: Linky

The Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) announced early this week that its founder chairman Lalhmingthanga Sanate was removed from his post on September 29, for his overt proximity with a Kuki rebel outfit. Sanate lost his post following a feud in the group two months ago. But when Sanate, 47, was sacked, no reason was cited as to why the founder was ousted. The HPC (D) has announced in a press note that Sanate was removed as he signed a deed of agreement with a Kuki rebel group, the Kuki National Organisation, which apart from making inroads into Dima Hasao district, is also active in Mizoram and Manipur. Describing this agreement as an act of going against the group’s interests and aspirations, the press note declared that the HPC (D) leadership has ultimately termed it null and void.

9) Is Mizoram really calm? Linky

The most peaceful state in the Northeast, Mizoram, was allegedly used as a meeting point by Maoists and leaders of the Manipur-based militant outfit People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the PLA’s anti-national activities, discovered that a meeting was held between the outfit’s leaders and Maoists at Champhai in Mizoram on July 15, 2010. According to the agency, similar meetings between the outfit and Maoist leaders were also held in Calcutta, Guwahati and Rourkela.

An official source said the militants might have selected Mizoram because of its history of being a peaceful state for more than two decades. Insurgency in Mizoram had come to an end after the Mizoram Peace Accord was signed in 1986, and since then, the state has remained by and large peaceful. The NIA said a group of PLA leaders had also imparted arms training to Maoists at Saranda forest in Jharkhand from September 11 to November 20 last year. The PLA had allegedly trained Maoists in basic military tactics, guerrilla warfare, ambushing and wireless communication skills and a couple of more such training sessions were scheduled for next year. According to the investigating agency, the self-styled chief of PLA’s external affairs wing, N. Dilip Singh, who was arrested from Paharganj in Delhi on October 1, was one of the main trainers.

10) Continuing on the Jarbom Gamlin-Tako Dabi-Nabam Tuki spectacle: Linky

Arunachal Pradesh finally got its council of ministers this afternoon, 15 days after the newly-appointed chief minister Nabam Tuki succeeded Jarbom Gamlin. Tuki replaced Gamlin on November 1 after four months of sustained campaigning against the latter’s leadership and had camped in Delhi for over 12 days to get his 12-member team finalised.

The members of the Tuki cabinet, sworn-in by Arunachal governor Gen. (retd) J.J. Singh at the packed Raj Bhavan in Itanagar this afternoon, has four ministers from the Gamlin camp, an indication that the Congress high command just stopped short of giving the Tuki camp a free hand. They are Setong Sena, Pema Khandu, Atum Welly and Jarbom Gamlin’s brother Jarkar Gamlin, who makes his ministerial debut along with Kamlung Mossang and Tapang Taloh, the deputy speaker in the last government.

The high command has also ensured some sort of continuity as seven of the ministers — Welly, Sena, Khandu along with Chowna Mein, Tanga Byaling, Bosiram Siram and Tuki — had also featured in the Gamlin cabinet. Those who got the axe are Jarbom Gamlin, Kolikho Pul, Tako Dabi, Takar Marde — who was home minister — and Honchung Ngadang. They have been replaced by Rajesh Tacho, Mossang, Newlai Tingkhatra, Taloh — who belong to the Tuki camp — and Jarkar.

Congress insiders said though the high command did not go solely by the list submitted by Tuki, it was also not overbearing, as is evident from the reaction of the chief minister on the composition of his team. “We will work as Team Arunachal. The portfolios will be allocated very soon,” he told The Telegraph from Itanagar. The insiders also said Tuki had reservations over inclusion of Welly, who is a relative of Gamlin and was recently in the news over a controversy surrounding his son and daughter’s appointment as government employees. Arunachal Pradesh PCC general secretary T.C. Tok said it was a “good” team. “Everyone has to move together for all-round development of the state. All misunderstandings have been sorted out,” Tok said.

11) KLO: LInky

The Kuki Liberation Organisation, which operates in Dima Hasao district and has an armed wing, the Kuki Liberation Army, has declared a ceasefire. KLO president K. Thangkiew declared the unilateral ceasefire against police and security forces in Dima Hasao district in Haflong last night and said it was now up to Delhi and Dispur to accept it in “a full-fledged manner”.

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