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Corporate link to militant funding

Calcutta, May 2: Four tea companies headquartered in the city and with business interests in Assam have been funding Bodo militants for at least the last two years, police said today.

Leaders of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) used to regularly visit the city, collect the money, convert it into dollars and leave for Assam, the police added.

The revelation, based on the interrogation of two NDFB rebels who were arrested from a hotel on Wednesday, comes about six years after Assam police disclosed that Tata Tea had been funding the Ulfa through one of its welfare schemes.

The duo had been arrested from a hotel in Park Circus and Rs 10 lakh was recovered from them. The police today said this was the “protection money” given to the rebels by four major tea companies which have headquarters in the city.

“We cannot reveal the names of the companies at this moment, but it can be said that these are tea companies which have gardens in Assam,” deputy commissioner of police (detective department) Soumen Mitra said today. “Unfortunately, none of these companies had lodged complaints with the police that they were having to pay protection money. But the two arrested rebels have revealed to us the source of their funds.”

Mitra said the police would “soon” speak to representatives of these companies to find out details of how much money had been paid and for how long.

Police teams from Assam and Jalpaiguri have arrived in the city and are interrogating the two militants — identified as Sunil Brahma and David Waris — along with the city police. A team from Nagaland is expected to land tomorrow.

The police said Brahma is a former organising secretary and one of the 13 members of the NDFB’s present central committee. He is also in charge of the outfit’s bases in Bengal, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Sikkim. Waris, a “captain” of the outfit, was arrested by Assam police in 1995. He managed to escape and since then has been operating under different names.

The duo had masterminded the explosion at the Shamukkhola forest guesthouse at Bhutanghat in Jalpaiguri district in 2001, the police said.

“Besides collecting the extortion money, they would also convert it into dollars,” a detective department official said.

During interrogation, Brahma and Waris confessed that 500 armed men are fighting for Boroland.

“Besides, the organisation has a number of training camps in Bangladesh and two in Bhutan. Waris, who is also known as P. Butlang, received training in handling sophisticated firearms in Bhutan,” a detective department official said.

The militants also revealed that they use Manas National Park as a corridor to enter north Bengal from Bhutan.

“The activities of the outfit have now been extended to the north-west of the Brahmaputra and in Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Darrang and Dhupguri,” they told the police.

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