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The spread of red
Way back in 1978, a Manipuri student of IIT-Bombay, Bedamani Singh, left his studies mid-way to participate in what he called the "Maoist revolution" in eastern India. He met students from the North-east in Delhi, Guwahati and Imphal to spread the ideology. The same year, recall old-timers, about 10 Delhi University students from Manipur dropped out to join the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
This was the beginning of the spread of Maoist ideology in the North-east. In 1976, N Bisheswar Singh along with other Manipuri youths crossed over to China to obtain ideological training from the Chinese communists. They returned to form the PLA, a militant group that was crushed by the army in the 1980s but managed to regroup by the early 1990s.
Maoism now appears to have returned to the North-east. On the morning of May 9, Assam policemen killed four senior armed Maoist cadres, including a local commander Siddhartha Borgohain, in an encounter at Sadiya in Tinsukia district. The other three killed were identified as Rajib Gogoi, Arup Chetia and Kamala Burhagohain. Three AK-47 s, two grenades and a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from them.
Union home minister P Chidambaram, who visited Arunachal Pradesh recently, had expressed concern about Maoist presence in the area. He said the state governments in the region had been instructed to deal with the Reds with a firm hand. "There will be no compromise with Maoists trying to destabilise peace in the region and police have been instructed to take stern action, " Chidambaram said. The home minister, however, added that there was small presence of Maoists here, and commended the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh governments for dealing with them firmly.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had asked PM Manmohan Singh during his visit to the state last month for additional central paramilitary forces to deal with the growing Maoist menace. Assam police have so far arrested 20 cadres, but several of them, including top leader Aditya Bora, have jumped bail.
Intelligence agencies have also got inputs about CPI(Maoist)'s links with Ulfa, UNLF, NSCN(IM) and the PLA. UNLF chairman Rajkumar Meghen was even charged by the National Investigation Agency of planning a broad tie-up between Manipuri rebel outfits and the Maoists. The Maoist-Ulfa link, however, has more to do with arms dealing than ideology.
In Manipur too, some rebel outfits are inclined towards the Red ideology. A faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) has rechristened itself as the Maoist Communist Party of Manipur. But the bigger headache for the security agencies is the spread of Maoists in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
In Assam, at least 300 youths, who have been found to be missing from their homes for the last two years, are suspected to have joined the Maoists. The cops carried out a survey over the last two months to track Maoist recruits in all districts. There are 100 listed Maoists cadres in the state.
"These youngster left home on the pretext of taking up jobs elsewhere. But they have yet to communicate with their families. They are untraceable and we believe they might have gone underground as Maoist recruits, " says a security source.
Unlike other states, the initial recruits in Assam have mostly been from communities other than Adivasis. "The pattern in other states is that the recruits are mainly from the marginalised groups, but that has not been reflected yet in Assam. There is only a sprinkling of Adivasi youths among the listed cadres, " the source says. "The Adivasis here live under relatively better conditions than those in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Odisha. The pattern seen so far is that wherever governance has failed and Ulfa is on the wane, the Maoists have moved in. They also keep a watch on mass protests to pick up potential cadres. "
Security forces are now on the lookout for top Maoist leader Moina Dohotiya even as the CPI(Maoist) has entrusted its key members with the responsibility of using the North-east as a staging post primarily for two things - creating a base and strengthening its link with Manipur's PLA for arms supply.
The Centre is worried over the development as the region borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. Maoists are bringing in arms through Myanmar with the help of the PLA. Two top PLA leaders, who were arrested in New Delhi last year, had revealed that the Manipuri outfit was imparting arms training to the Maoist cadres and supplying arms.
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