| The arms suppliers after their arrest. Telegraph picture |
Shillong, March 10: Meghalaya police today recovered arms and ammunition from Williamnagar in East Garo Hills, meant for GNLA “commander-in-chief” Sohan D. Shira, pointing to a nexus between active militant groups and those which have surrendered or are under a ceasefire agreement.
Three persons — Sagar Chism, Jotin Marak and Mintu Das — from Satgaon in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, who are suppliers of the arms, were arrested.
Acting on a tip-off, the police carried out an extensive search operation in various parts of the district and were able to intercept a Tata Mobile (AS 09 7516), which was carrying the arms consignment for Shira.
Five teams of SWAT and CoBRA were involved in the operations, and were able to intercept the vehicle in a remote place in the Williamnagar area.
Mintu Das, the driver, and Jotin Marak, who was accompanying Das to deliver the weapons to Shira, were arrested. Three AK series rifles and 150 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the vehicle.
“During interrogation, the accused divulged the name of their leader, Sagar Chism, who was in Guwahati. With the help of Guwahati police, Chism was arrested and Rs 1,22,900 recovered from him. The amount was sent to him by Shira as advance payment for these weapons,” a police official said.
Incidentally, the official said, Chism, Marak and Das belong to the United Democratic People’s Solidarity (UPDS), a militant organisation operating in the Karbi Anglong area.
The official said Meghalaya police have been making efforts to contain the free flow of arms to the GNLA and other militant groups operating in the Garo hills.
“While most of these weapons are coming from Dimapur in Nagaland, Karbi Anglong and Kokrajhar districts in Assam and Imphal in Manipur of the Northeast, the explosives to the GNLA are coming from Bangladesh,” the official said.
Free availability of arms and explosives from the ceasefire groups or surrendered militants of other states has encouraged the mushrooming of militant groups in the Garo hills region and bolstered the firepower of these militant groups, the official said.
“Most of these militant groups refrain from declaring and surrendering all the weapons available with them during the ceasefire/surrender,” the official added.
The undeclared/undisclosed weapons and ammunition are then sold to the active militant groups such as GNLA, ASAK, UALA by these surrendered/ceasefire militant groups, thereby compounding the militancy problem in the Garo hills, the official said.
In 2013, Meghalaya police recovered 59 arms (50 arms were from GNLA), 1,152 rounds of ammunition, 11 hand grenades and a large quantity of explosives.
During January and February 2014, 22 arms, 323 rounds of ammunition and other explosives were recovered.
“All these arms were supplied by other militant groups from other states of the Northeast. We seek the help and co-operation from the police forces of other northeastern states in tracing and arresting arms smugglers,” the official said.
The official said the police would continue their efforts and intensify counter-insurgency operations against militant groups operating in the state during the coming days for peaceful conduct of the Lok Sabha polls.