R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, May 15 - Though Bangladesh is no longer a preferred route for the militants and criminals to bring in weapons to the Northeast, the porous international border with Myanmar is still a major worry as sophisticated weapons are still being brought into the region through that route and security agencies suspect that Dimapur in Nagaland is the hub of clandestine arms dealers.
Highly placed security sources told The Assam Tribune that at one point of time, the militants used to bring in weapons to the Northeast through Bangladesh, but that has almost stopped in recent times as the security along the international border has been intensified, while the present government in that country has also launched a crackdown against those involved in such arms smuggling.
But the porous border with Myanmar remains a cause of concern as militant groups as well as criminals are still bringing in weapons to the region through that country. The arms smugglers mostly use the Nagaland-Myanmar and Manipur-Myanmar borders to smuggle in weapons. Dimapur is still suspected to be the main hub of arms smugglers in the region from where the smuggled weapons are sent to the other states of the region.
According to information available with the security agencies, one AK series rifle costs around three lakh rupees in the clandestine market, while a pistol costs around one lakh to 1.50 lakh rupees depending on the quality. One grenade costs around 30 thousand rupees.
However, sources said that in recent times, the flow of weapons came down as a number of militant outfits signed ceasefire pacts with the government to get involved in talks. On the other hand, the flow of funds to the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) and the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) has drastically come down as the outfits are not being able to extort money like before and their capacity to buy weapons has also drastically come down.
In the last one year or so, a large number of weapons of both the outfits were also seized during counterinsurgency operations and the outfits are not in a position to procure new ones.
“We are not aware how many weapons the outfits have in their bases in Myanmar, but it is a fact that they are not in a position to send those into the state nor they are financially sound to procure new ones here,” sources added.
Sources further said that according to information available with the police and security agencies, splinter groups of militant outfits in Karbi Anglong are still procuring some weapons from the clandestine arms dealers having bases in Dimapur. Despite suffering major setbacks in recent times, some small militant outfits in the hill state are still surviving by taking advantage of the hilly terrain.
As poachers involved in killing of rhinos have started using sophisticated weapons, it is suspected that they are also procuring weapons from the secret arms dealers. Earlier, the poachers had mainly used .303 rifles, but, of late, there have been instances where the poachers have used sophisticated weapons.
The disturbing fact is that even the common criminals have started procuring such illegally smuggled weapons, which has become a major cause of concern for the entire Northeast, sources admitted.