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Cops tighten funds noose
- Official held for paying Ulfa

Guwahati, Feb. 17: Police have began to cut off Ulfa’s funds lifeline — namely the rebel-fearing government officials — by arresting a special planning official of the Assam animal husbandry department for allegedly paying money to the militant outfit.

A police source said Pradip Kumar Neog, 53, was arrested late last night for paying Rs 1.5 lakh to the militant outfit in the last week of January.

“He was arrested on the basis of confessions made by Ulfa militant Champak Sharma. During interrogations, Sharma revealed that the senior official of the state veterinary and animal husbandry department had paid money to the proscribed outfit,” the officer said.

“More arrests are likely to be carried out on the basis of the confessions made by Sharma,” he added.

Neog was shifted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital soon after when he complained of chest pain. “He was suffering from cardiac problems and after consulting doctors, he was admitted to the GMCH,” the police officer said.

A case has been registered against Neog at Latasil police station under Section 121, 121 (A) of the IPC.

Sharma has admitted to serving a Rs 20 lakh extortion note to Neog. “Sharma said he had collected Rs 1.5 lakh from Neog as the first instalment in the last week of January,” the source said.

Police sources said Neog’s arrest was part of a concerted attempt to cut off funds flow to Ulfa from government employees just as the Unified Command had succeeded in snapping payment to the outfit from the tea community.

“Neog has been arrested to send a strong message to others not to pay money to the banned rebel outfit. It has come to our notice that many people, including some doctors, are paying Ulfa. More arrests are likely to take place in the next few days,” the police officer said.

“If anyone receives an extortion note from the outfit they should report it to police instead of conceding to their demand, as paying money to a banned militant outfit is also a serious offence and invites arrest.”

The police have come to know that Ulfa’s 709 battalion has launched a massive extortion drive in the city, targeting government employees, businessmen and doctors.

Champak Sharma — who was arrested from near Nehru Park on Tuesday — has confessed that he, along with Kangkan Gogoi and Monu Kalita, worked under Ankur Patgiri, who is in charge of Ulfa’s extortion racket in the city. Patgiri is believed to be operating from somewhere on the city’s outskirts.

The police have stepped up efforts to nab the trio to know more about Ulfa’s extortion drive.

“Sharma has revealed the names of certain persons to whom he had served extortion notices demanding amounts ranging between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 20 lakh. Most of them had paid up. We are verifying the veracity of his statements. More arrests are likely to take place shortly,” the source added.

The development is another indication of Dispur toughening its stand against the outfit in the past fortnight, going after overground sympathisers of the outfit and intensifying its counter-insurgency operations, leading to the killing of four Ulfa rebels in Sivasagar district yesterday.

“So far government employees are largely safe, except some pockets like the North Cachar Hills. We want to nip the practice in the bud before it becomes a trend,” another source said.

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