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Surrender ‘fiasco’ in Manipur camp

- Assam Rifles denies ‘conspiracy’ charge, releases seven ‘rebel’ youths from Thoubal district

Imphal, Jan. 8: A “conspiracy,” allegedly hatched in an Assam Rifles post at Heirok in Thoubal district to force innocent youths to surrender, was exposed today. The incident has cast doubts on the credibility of mass surrender programmes organised by the force in Manipur recently.

Police arrested S. Purnima and her landlord Th. Rameshore from Heirok in connection with the case. Purnima is the wife of Salam Gambhir Singh, a surrendered militant, apparently staying at the 42 Assam Rifles post in Chandel district, while Rameshore is the father of one of the seven youths.

The youths, aged between 20 and 25, narrated their experience to the media here today.

They feared that they could be targeted for exposing the “conspiracy”.

They said Purnima promised N. Herojit (21), Th. Milan (25), M. Premkant (21), N. Johny (21), E. Muhindro (20), M. Thoiba (21) and M. Oken (25) that they would be recruited to the Assam Rifles. She took them to the 42 Assam Rifles post in two batches on December 29 and January 4 and handed them to her husband at the post.

Two of the youths are students, one a driver, one a shopkeeper, one a carpenter and one a construction labourer and one is unemployed.

“First an Assam Rifles officer recorded our names and later he sent us to a room where 50/60 other civilians like us were already gathered. There a civilian, believed to be a surrendered militant, took our signatures on papers, which mentioned us as cadres of the Military Defence Force (Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup),” Thoiba said.

On learning that they were going to be forced to join surrender programmes in the name of the militant group, the youths objected and sought permission to return home.

“We were threatened against leaving the Assam Rifles post but after our parents and villagers kicked up a furore at Heirok we were finally released,” Thoiba said.

Five were allowed to go home on January 5 while two were released yesterday.

“This is a plan to force innocent youths to take part in surrender programmes. The government should hold an inquiry into the recent surrender programmes to find out how many of the surrendered youths are genuine,” Mandir Laishram, a spokesman for Heirok, demanded.

N. Kameshore, secretary of Heirok Eastern Sporting Union, said the incident was condemnable as those involved in it were misguiding innocent youths.

He demanded steps by the government to prevent such incidents.

The Assam Rifles authorities clarified that Gambhir Singh and his wife had brought the youths saying they were cadres of the Military Defence Force.

The Assam Rifles post released them yesterday after finding that they were not militants.