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64 SPLA cadres surrender
Published on 17 Jul. 2009 11:09 PM IST
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In a surrender ceremony held at Aizwal on Friday, 64 cadres of Sinlung Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) laid down arms and formally surrendered to the State Government of Mizoram. According to a defense release, the cadres formally handed over their weapons to the Mizoram chief minister Lal Than Hawla at Vanapa Hall and Home Minister of Zir Liana, and Major General Shakti Gurung, VSM, GOC 57 Mountain Division, under whose jurisdiction the cadres had initially surrendered in the last week of May at Churachandpur. Among the surrenderees, 53 cadres belonged to Mizoram and 11 from Manipur. The ceremony was conducted under the aegis of HQ 23 Sector Assam Rifles. Speaking at the ceremony, Mizoram CM Lal Thanhawla said the state government would not give any rehabilitation in the form of cash to the 64 Sinlung People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) cadres as the government firmly held that insurgency should not pay. Lal Thanhawla said that non-payment of rehabilitation would show others that being an insurgent do not have any dividends. “The army would conduct training to the former militants so that they can join the mainstream and work honestly in the overground,” he said. Speaking on the occasion Maj Gen Shakti Gurung, VSM said the home coming of the SPLA cadres makes the aim of the division to tackle the ongoing insurgency in Mizoram complete. Two years ago, in May 2007, 54 year old L Z Hrangchal founded the Sinlung Tiger Force, recruiting young men between 18-25 years from the Mizo tribes of Pachhuau, Hmar, Chhakchhuak, Palol, Ralte and Sailou. The ideology was that the cadre would take up the struggle of the indigenous Sinlung people affected by hydel projects of Tuirial and Tipaimukh based in Manipur. The ultimate aim of the founder Hrangchal was his new underground outfit could join Sinlung Hill District Council, SHDC in Barak Valley and work towards the creation of Greater Mizoram. However, none of the youth recruited amongst the employment starved tribes were ever told they would form an underground organization. The lure instead was they would be part of the Mizoram Police. With mistaken dreams of improving their lot to be able to climb out of endemic poverty the young volunteers, roughly 100 of them, were taken by bus from Aizwal to Imphal and on to Moreh from where they were transported to training camps in Myanmar. Intelligence sources believe that the training of these young men was undertaken by the United People’s Party of Kangleipak (UPPK). It was in an isolated training camp in Myanmar that this group took on a new avatar and began calling themselves the Sinlung People Liberation Army (SPLA). The last known strength of their cadres was put at 93. For the UPPK, the fledgling SPLA was a perfect front that could operate in the ethnically similar Hmar area of Tipaimukh where they would face no opposition from the local community. Through the SPLA the UPPK hoped to be able to siphon money from the estimated Rs 542.16 crores Tipaimukh Dam Project. However after the training, rift occurred between the two as the SPLA was unable to pay UPPK for the training. This resulted in the UPPK withdrawing the weapons given to the cadres during the training period. The rift resulted in SPLA cadres defecting in groups of 5-10 and crossing the border to Manipur. The defecting cadres who had been cut off in remote training camps in Myanmar also found themselves rudderless as the issue of operating in Tipaimukh dam area had come under a cloud. Various agencies were wrestling amongst themselves on the viability of the project. The forest clearance from Mizoram government is still pending so is the growing concern shown by the Bangladesh government on possible ecological imbalance the dam could create in their area. Unsure of their future and unwilling to be entrenched in the role of underground, the hapless 64 cadres of the SPLA felt surrendering was the only way they can regain their lives back.

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