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Arms smuggling still on the splurge
Published on 22 Nov. 2008 12:31 AM IST
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Arms smuggling across the Indo-Myanmar border has raised questions about the role of the Assam Rifles deployed there and the overall security in the area, reports The Telegraph. Last month, Northeast-based insurgent groups smuggled huge quantities of sophisticated arms and ammunition across the border. The NSCN’s Khaplang group displayed M-series rifles, AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers, RPGs and other ammunition at Zunheboto on October 26 and even issued a press release to this effect. Home ministry sources told The Telegraph there were more than 30 AK-47 rifles, about 40 M-Series rifles and 200 grenades. Intelligence reports said nearly 100 cadres, led by one Niki Sumi of the Khaplang group, transported the contraband to Nagaland with the help of Meitei outfits in Manipur. But the Assam Rifles took no action. The NSCN (Isak-Muivah) is also reported to be in touch with Thai arms smugglers who get arms and ammunition transported through the Myanmar border with the help of local agents. The Assam Rifles has been posted in Nagaland for decades now and has a good idea of the topography. It also has an intelligence network to inform it beforehand if such operations are planned. Moreover, the arms routes along the Indo-Myanmar and Indo-Bangladesh borders are well-known. This time round, their “peripheral security” seems to have floundered badly. The home ministry is on the defensive. Officials argued that although Assam Rifles was a paramilitary force, it reported to the army and was thus largely the responsibility of the ministry of defence. Although the Assam Rifles is a central police force, its officer cadre is on deputation from the army. The intelligence bureau has informed Ashok Chaturvedi, the secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), as well as top officials of the directorate-general of military intelligence (DGMI) about the incident. There is more concern as the home ministry has also learnt that Naxalites are purchasing arms from Northeast militants. One group from Chhattisgarh is believed to have collected about a dozen M-16 rifles from Calcutta recently. Apparently, the guns were sold by a northeastern militant outfit, sources said. “Security along the Myanmar border has been flagged several times and even fencing has been contemplated but execution has not been done yet,” a home ministry source said. The fencing plan, however, is only for a 10km stretch close to Moreh town in Manipur. Moreh is the international checkpost and a haven for militants and smugglers alike who have “trade links” in the closest Myanmar town, Tamu.

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