TEZPUR, March 22 – The insurgency problem replete with extortion demands has been an unending story in the northern part of Sonitpur, ranging from Mazbat touching the district and BTAD border areas up to Gohpur, over the years. It has been a hotspot for different armed groups including NDFB(S), AANLA, Cobra Militant Force, Birsa Commando Force (BCF), etc.
Top officials of the Army and the State police administration may express satisfaction after the recent apprehension and killing of a number of militants and recovery of a good number of arms and ammunition, and the surrender of more than 150 cadres belonging to the NDFB(S) during the anti-insurgency operation following the senseless killing of about 100 innocent Adivasi people in Chirang, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Sonitpur districts by the extremists on December 23, 2014, but the people of the northern part of Sonitpur district along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border are still spending sleepless nights as a result of unchecked and rampant intimidation, kidnapping and extortion carried out by the militants belonging to the All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA).
According to security force sources here, in Sonitpur district recently 20 NDFB(S) cadres and linkmen were arrested, while a number of sophisticated arms along with 14 grenades were recovered. After this development, the people expected a peaceful situation in the area, but the rising cases of unlawful activities like extortion demands, attempts of kidnapping, etc., by Adivasi militants, including those from the AANLA have again vitiated the atmosphere.
Sources said the tea garden areas of northern Sonitpur have of late become free movement zones for the Adivasi militants having Maoist leaning. The AANLA militants are also reportedly taking the advantage of their ceasefire pact with the government. People of the area have alleged that they have been subjected to extortion demands for huge amount of money with life threats. Residents of Misamari and its periphery areas like Kolamati, Karki Centre, Ramnathpur, and the tea garden areas adjacent to it are the worst hit by these extortion demands.
Recently two noted personalities of the locality – the chairman of the Eastern Zone chapter of the All India MES (Army) Contractors’ Association, Rajesh Singh and a forest official, Gopal Deka – got two demand notes for huge amounts of money by the AANLA militants under the leadership of one Dipen Nayak. Rajesh Singh alleged that many of them had to oblige as the police and the AANLA militants have a nexus.
A tea garden worker of Barjuli area near Rangapara, who didn’t want to be named, expressing grave concern over the growing unlawful activities of the different Adivasi militants in the tea garden areas in Sonitpur, said the Adivasi militancy and the Maoist problem have now become another serious issue in the district.
A few days back in Dhekiajuli area, one AANLA militant was arrested with the help of the local public. However, in retaliation to it, the local people are now getting extortion demands. Moreover, in Batachipur and Rangapara areas, people alleged that though the police have claimed success in neutralizing the NDFB(S) cadres in the area, the latter are still seen roaming openly distributing extortion notes among the common public.
A small tea grower of Rangapara said that the AANLA and the NDFB(S) are still collecting tax from the small tea growers, businessmen, pork traders, timber suppliers, teachers, etc. The small tea grower, who is also a prominent social worker of the area, while highlighting the socioeconomic and educational scenario of the area, said that lack of educational environment in the greater area, absence of educational institutions, health and hygiene facilities, proper road communication, electrification, etc., has led to the rise in insurgency in this belt.
He added that the problem persists in the area only due to the government’s lackadaisical attitude. “Presently the militants of the AANLA have been running a parallel government in the area and unfortunately, there is little presence of the administration,” he said.
Recently, in the midst of the army operation against the NDFB(S) militants, a small tea grower of Sootea area got an extortion demand of Rs 10 lakh from the AANLA militants. Although he informed the matter to the police, he did not get any response. In Biswanath Chariali area also the AANLAA cadres are carrying out various nefarious activities in the tea garden areas under the very nose of the law- enforcing agencies.