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Assam Rifles To Parade Poor Youth In Fake Surrendering Drama

The youth will be made to surrender in front of CM O Ibobi Singh, while arms have come from Kuki militants

Umar Farooq. Image Credit: Tehelka

Around 45 youth from Thoubal, the home constituency of Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, will surrender before him on Tuesday, 14 June, creating a stir and winning the Chief Minister brownie points building up to the Assembly poll fever, which is scheduled for the year-end. The only problem is that they do not actually belong to the Azad Khan faction of the People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), as is being claimed. They are, in fact, daily-waged laborers, mechanics in tires shops, rickshaw-pullers and over-ground collaborators. This fake surrender, not the first in the state by a long shot, will be accompanied by the laying down of 25 sophisticated arms, which were never actually in their possession. Compounding the farce is the fact that it is being played out in full public view.

During his 10-11 May visit to Manipur, Union home minister P Chidambaram had been briefed regarding impending surrender by a host of PULF cadres, reliable sources in the home ministry stated. The Manipur government, ably assisted by the Assam Rifles, is trying to send across the message that militant groups are shunning violence. But, an intelligence sleuth of the Manipur Police revealed to Tehelka on condition of anonymity, “As per plan, two factions of the PULF will surrender, one led by Umar Farooq with around 50 boys and another led by MI Khan with 35 to 40 boys. It will be a fake one, since most of the cadres are being recruited with money. The Assam Rifles is helping them get arms. While 39 Assam Rifles is helping Farooq, 15 Assam Rifles, based at Thoubal, is helping Khan,” says the source.

This February, Tehelka had scooped a confidential investigation report of the Assam Police that spilled the beans on how the Assam Rifles jawans killed a minor boy Jatan Kumar Reang in southern Assam. More recently, we got access to an interrogation report of a hardcore rebel from a Manipuri outfit that tells the following tale of horror:

On 14 June 2010, Angom Ibochouba Singh, alias Lanchaiba or Punsiba, a 33-year-old Meitei cadre of the Lamyanba Khuman faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party (MC), surrendered in the presence of Y Joy Kumar, the DGP of the Manipur Police, and Major General CA Krishnan, IG, Assam Rifles (South). He was a hardcore cadre, wanted by the Manipur Police in many cases. Yet, curiously enough, he was arrested on 17 March 2011 in the Bishnupur district in a kidnap bid. What Singh revealed during marathon interrogations just goes to establish how security forces deployed in Manipur are involved in shady deals for easy bucks and medals.

The copy of the interrogation report available with Tehelka indicates that after his surrender, the rebel was confined at 39th Battalion AR, IGAR (South) at Mantripukhri, where many other surrendered rebels belonging to different banned outfits operating in Manipur were housed. It was in Mantripukhri that he met the infamous leader of the PULF, Umar Farooq, who leads a faction of the outfit. Intelligence sleuths had information that Farooq had links in various South Asian countries and was masterminding extortion drives in the name of the banned organization. Farooq has been operating with the aid of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and has also played a key role in building the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) network in the Northeast, especially in western Assam, a reliable source in the Manipur Police adds. Earlier, he was arrested by the Assam Police as well.

Singh developed good rapport with Farooq and slowly became his aide. Farooq asked him to line up people for staging fake surrenders. Accordingly, Singh, with the help of his brother, tried to get one woman Ibemcha Devi to ‘surrender’, who was presented as a member of Farooq’s outfit.

Singh revealed under interrogation: “On the afternoon of 15 March 2011, I was taken from Nilaskuthi AR post by Havilder OP Singh by one white Maruti Gypsy of the Assam Rifles to IGAR south campus at Mantripukhri. There I found Umar Farooq.”

Apart from Singh and Farooq, on board the Gypsy was Havilder OP Singh, two tribal youths who were jawans of the Assam Rifles in civilian dress and the vehicle driver Bikram. Ibochouba Singh was told that they are out on a ‘mission’. They reached the M Sector near Kangla in Imphal, which is another office of the Assam Rifles. They met Major Harpreet Singh Sandhu, who was in civilian dress. Ibochouba Singh claims that Umar Farooq, Major Sandhu and Havilder Singh had a long discussion in Hindi that he could not follow.

Once the plan was set, they left the M Sector office for Bishnupur. Ibochouba Singh also admitted that they were carrying firearms in the Gypsy in a bag. At one point of time the Gypsy was driven by Farooq, a serious misdemeanor, considering that it belonged to the Assam Rifles.

After reaching Bishnupur, they were trying to find the house of one Jayanta, who worked with the District Collector’s office in Bishnupur. He was perhaps the target of the extortion and kidnapping bid. They also met Ibemcha Devi, who was supposed to lead them to Jayanta’s house, but before it could happen, they were detained by the Manipur Police commandos as their Gypsy had no number plate. Two loaded AK-series rifles were found in the vehicle – they had earlier been brought from the M Sector office of the Assam Rifles near Kangla). Later, Ibochouba Singh and Ibemcha Devi were taken to the Bishenpur police station but the others were set free, according to the interrogation report. An extortion note demanding ransom on behalf of the PULF was recovered.

Thus there seems to be an unholy nexus of militant outfits, the Assam Rifles and government employees to extort money and also to arrange fake surrenders.

Sources inside the PULF have told Tehelka that the plan for the fake surrender on Tuesday was designed by Col. RK Sheron of 39 Assam Rifles. Arms are being brought from Myanmar from the Kuki militant bases across the border through Moreh.

In the Northeast, fake surrenders are nothing new. But, Ibochouba Singh’s interrogation statement makes it clear that an army unit is sheltering and nurturing militants and helping them to extort money from and, perhaps, kidnap innocent people for money, making trouble-torn Manipur even more volatile. The fake surrender which will take place on Tuesday will be only one more act in this dangerous farce being played out.

*The article is written by Ratnadip Choudhury

*The writer is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka and can be reached at ratnadip@tehelka.com

(Courtesy: Tehelka)

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