Cong seeks former Reang rebels' help

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Silchar
  • Published 30.03.09
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Silchar, March 30: The plan of the Hailakandi district Congress committee in south Assam to take the help of former Reang tribal militants for campaign ahead of Lok Sabha elections has raised the hackles of the administration and police in the district.

The former rebels of the United Liberation Front of Barak Valley (ULFBV) who had been waging an armed struggle for the uplift of the Reangs in the Barak Valley, particularly in Hailakandi and Karimganj districts since 2001, joined the mainstream early last year after surrendering their weapons.

The fear of the administration and the police follows intelligence reports that taking the help of former ULFBV rebels by the Congress is likely to pit the ULFBV against the United Democratic Liberation Army, another underground outfit still active along the boundary with Mizoram.

A senior police officer in Hailakandi, the district headquarters town, said a few additional companies of paramilitary forces would be rushed to the vulnerable Katlicherra block soon to keep an eye on the former militants of the ULFBV and the other outfit to maintain peace in the run-up to the election.

The ULFBV chief, Pauchau Ram Apeto, and his cadres are now getting monetary assistance from Dispur following a peace accord with the Tarun Gogoi government signed in Guwahati early last year.

Sources said the decision of the Congress to take the help of former ULFBV cadres for campaign in Hailakandi district was taken by the district Congress early this month at the behest of Assam excise minister Gautam Roy.

Hailakandi district Congress committee president Ashok Dutta Gupta said: “There is no harm in getting the support of the former underground elements in the Reang community. We were the ones who goaded them to come overground and they, fed up with the jungle life, responded to our appeal.”

Apeto, who had orchestrated the Reang insurgency in the district for seven years, said he would render all necessary assistance required by the Congress for electioneering as an act of gratitude to the party for setting in motion the surrender process last year.

The United Democratic Liberation Army, led by Dhainyaram Reang, 45, a one-time associate of Apeto, has started sending extortion notices to the plains people in Katlicherra block, the bastion of Roy.

The police have confirmed that Abdul Hasim Laskar, a rich farmer-cum-small businessman and resident of Nandagram village under Katlicherra, was told to pay Rs 1 lakh by the outfit which operates in Rajarthal, Gutguti and Bhaicherra — the former strongholds of the ULFBV.

Sources added that former underground activists of the Cachar Hill People Federation led by T. Sangkhum, a Hmar tribal, are also being wooed by the AGP-BJP combine and the Congress to garner their cadres’ support and use them in campaigning.

The gang joined the mainstream in the early nineties when Hiteswar Saikia was the chief minister of Assam.