The commander of a Kuki insurgent group that had signed a ceasefire agreement has been arrested for alleged drug trafficking in Manipur, the police said.
A first information report (FIR) has been filed against the accused, Lemtinsei Singson, 50, commander of the United Tribal Liberation Army (UTLA), which comes under the banner of the Kuki National Organisation (KNO).
The 39 Assam Rifles, which caught Singson and recovered 124 grams of a substance suspected to be “brown sugar”, or heroin, hidden in 10 soap cases, in a report to the police said they sent out a column at 8 am to intercept the accused on getting information about the presence of insurgents at village Phaitol in Manipur’s Tamenglong district, 145 km from the state capital Imphal.
“Immediately, acting on the information, a column of 39 Assam Rifles… was launched for an operation… to prevent any subversive activities by insurgents considering the present law and order situation in the state,” a 39 Assam Rifles soldier who led the operation said in his police report.
In the report, the Assam Rifles said they saw a suspicious Bolero SUV parked near a community hall and a man standing near the vehicle. On questioning, the man said he came from Churachandpur district, 175 km away. Churachandpur was where ethnic violence between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis began on May 3.
The Assam Rifles said they searched the SUV to check if it was carrying weapons and found in the boot a large polythene bag containing 10 soap cases suspected to be “brown sugar”.
The paramilitary force said they handed over the insurgent group commander to the police in Jiribam town. An Aadhaar card, a voter identity card, a permanent account number (PAN) card and a Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana card recovered from Singson were also handed over to the police.
The arrest raises concerns over the alleged misuse of the SoO agreement by Kuki insurgent groups, a retired police officer told NDTV, requesting anonymity. “The Assam Rifles are doing a good job by catching SoO group violators. This agreement doesn’t give a free pass to do illegal activities,” the officer said.
The KNO and UTLA – to which the accused caught with the packets of heroin belongs – are signatories to the tripartite suspension of operations (SoO) agreement between the centre, the state and the umbrella groups of at least 25 Kuki insurgent outfits that mostly operate in the hill areas of Manipur bordering Myanmar and Mizoram.
The Manipur government in March moved to withdraw SoO agreement with two Kuki insurgent groups.
Under the SoO agreement, the insurgents are to stay in designated camps and their weapons kept in locked storage, to be monitored regularly.
A terror suspect was arrested from Churachandpur by the country’s top anti-terror agency on September 30 in a transnational conspiracy case involving terrorist leaders in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The suspect, Seiminlun Gangte, was brought to Delhi for questioning and further investigation.
Over 180 have died in the Manipur ethnic violence and thousands have been internally displaced.