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Combat extortion drive

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  15 Dec 2017 12:00 AM GMT

The slaying of a father-son duo in Tinsukia district — by an ULFA(I) hit squad on Monday night last — has brought back memories of the nightmarish Nineties when Assam was convulsed by waves of dastardly killings. Most of those murders were never solved; the victims’ families continue to languish with no sense of closure due to justice denied. For a change though, spontaneous protests this time have greeted the double murder of Anteshwar Mahanta and his son Karun of Sunjan Simaluguri village under Bordumsa police station. In this belt often visited by militant violence in the past, it is noteworthy that student and youth organisations like the AASU, the AJYCP, the All Moran Students Union, the Sodou Muttock Yuva Chatra Sanmelan and others have voiced strong protest against the latest murders. The bandh called to protest the ‘killing of indigenous people by ULFA(I)’ evoked near-total response in Tinsukia district. Processions were taken out, roads were blockaded and demonstrations held to condemn this cowardly attack which only showed how low the ULFA(I) has sunk in recent times. Small tea grower Anteshwar Mahanta was also a BJP member and headed the village defence force (VDP) in Simoluguri. He was reportedly threatened in the past for opposing militant activities in the area. After gunning the Mahanta duo down, the ULFA(I) has claimed they were “spying” for the Indian Army, “threatening” families of militant cadres and “forcing” them to surrender. Refuting these allegations while demanding proof, Moran student activists have rightly pointed out that the ULFA has used Moran youths as its sword arm to carry out many nefarious activities in the past, for which the entire community had to bear the brunt. They have also questioned why the local police did nothing to give the Mahanta family a rudimentary security cover, despite threats and extortion notes known to be issued to the victims. What the Bordumsa double strike has confirmed is that militants still retain the capability to sneak in through the Unified Command’s security net and strike at targets. After a recent attack on a tea estate mager in the area, there is a palpable sense of fear in tea estates, factories, collieries and business establishments here of violence if extortion demands are not made. The gunfire and arson attack launched on a colliery in Ledo area last month underscores the heightened militant activity in Tinsukia district. The powers-be in Dispur need to urgently deal with this renewed threat, with reports of heavily-armed militants regularly crossing over from Myanmar through corridors like the three Aruchal districts of Changlang, Longding and Tirap into Tinsukia district, or galand’s Mon district into Charaideo district of Assam. Entire galand is presently astir with expectations of a framework agreement with the Centre that has brought to the negotiating table several militant outfits. But the NSCN(K) remains a notable holdout in its post-SS Khaplang phase too, with Khango Konyak taking up reins of both the NSCN(K) and the UNLFW militant platform it leads. There have been skirmishing between the army and NSCN(K) ultras along the Myanmar border in the past couple of months. For the foreseeable future, the hardline ULFA(I) — short of funds as it is — will remain tied to the NSCN(K)’s apron strings. Their joint recruitment and extortion activities need to be relentlessly combated if Assam is not to witness a spike in violence in 2018 after a lull this year.

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