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Hunger gnaws at Ulfa hideout in Nagaland

Sonari, Sept. 18: Over 100 Ulfa militants holed up in a hideout in Nagaland’s Mon district are in a Catch-22 situation — starve to death or venture out in search of food at the risk of being apprehended by security forces.

The “acute food shortage” at the Ulfa camp became known when two militants were arrested in Mon town on September 1. Police sources in Sonari, an Upper Assam town bordering Nagaland, quoted the duo as saying that the increased alertness of security forces deployed in both states had made it difficult for them to move about with the freedom of old.

The militants, identified as Lakhyajit Gogoi and Debananda Konwar alias Debananda Chetia, had come down from their hideout to Mon town to purchase 50 quintals of rice. They were carrying Rs 1.15 lakh in cash, the police said.

The Assam Rifles, which apprehended the duo, brought them here on September 9. The militants told police interrogators that all Ulfa members in the Mon camp were subsisting on just one meal a day.

The police said a sheaf of incriminating documents seized from the militants had revealed that the outlawed outfit was finding it difficult to continue its extortion drive in the border areas of Assam and Nagaland.

One of these documents — a letter written by Debojit Konwar, who is leading the outfit’s extortion drive in the area, to his superiors in the outfit — mentions that apart from increased vigil by the security forces, “we are facing opposition from the public”.

According to the letter, some Ulfa members were “chased” by labourers of Manjushree tea estate on July 3 when they had gone there to extort money.

With security forces alert to the movements of Ulfa militants, the outfit has started using members of the NSCN (Khaplang) in its extortion drive in Sonari and other places along the Assam-Nagaland border.

A senior police official said the Ulfa camp in Mon district had not been raided because of the presence of NSCN(K) rebels there. “The Khaplang faction has a ceasefire pact with the Centre and Nagaland police cannot violate the ground rules of the truce,” he said.

Sonari, the headquarters of Charaideo subdivision of Sivasagar district, is just 14 km from the border town of Namtola. Several batches of Ulfa militants had used the Sonari-Namtola-Mon route to reach Myanmar for training.

The Ulfa’s alliance with the NSCN(K) is based on the condition that the Naga outfit will get a share of the booty. “After the Khaplang group entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Centre, its members became jobless. These militants are now helping the Ulfa in its extortion drive,” a source said.

By using NSCN(K) militants in its operations, the Ulfa has lessened the risk of its listed cadre being arrested by security forces. The outfit, as usual, is targeting tea gardens, businessmen, petrol pumps and government officials.

Nagaland police, however, deny that Ulfa militants are operating from Mon district.

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