Itanagar: The citizens of Tirap, Changlang and Longding (TCL) districts joined forces on Monday to unanimously voice their resentment against the alleged atrocities and abductions carried out by the NSCN (K-YA) insurgents in the region.
Massive protest rallies were taken out in various parts of the three districts, the largest in Longding, against the Khaplang-Yung Aung faction of the NSCN as slogans like “Azadi, azadi, kidnapping se azadi” (freedom from kidnapping) and “chaiye chaiye, shanti chaiye” (We want peace) rent the air.
The rally, spearheaded by Wancho Council, the apex body of the Wancho community, was supported by several student and community based organizations of the TCL belt.
According to locals, several prominent public figures have been abducted from the Pumao, Kamhua Noknu, Longphong and Luaksim villages of Longding district in the past two months.
Most of the abductees belong to the Wancho community.
Locals said the NSCN (K-YA) has so far released 10 villagers after their demands for ransoms were met, however, two more individuals are still being held captive.
Hubo Wangnaw, the gram panchayat member of Pumao village was allegedly kidnapped by the NSCN (K-YA) a week ago while Tingpho Lukham, the gaon bura (village chief) of Chattong village was abducted on May 27.
Though locals believe that they have been taken across the border to Myanmar, their actual whereabouts remain a mystery.
India and Myanmar share a 1,643 km unfenced border along Arunachal Pradesh.
Similar cases of abduction have also been frequently reported from the Tirap and Changlang districts.
Khilang Hangpukh, a gram panchayat chairperson of Kothung village was allegedly abducted by a group of suspected NSCN (K-YA) rebels from Lazu circle in Tirap district on May 20 for non-payment of self-imposed house and indent taxes.
Interestingly, the kidnapping took place a day before Union home minister Amit Shah’s visit to the district. Hangpukh was released a few days later.
Speaking to NewsFy, S. Wangsa, a member of the Wancho Council said that instances of kidnapping and extortion by the NSCN (K-YA) have increased in the Longding district since April.
“They (insurgents) are targeting the locals and gaon buras of villages which have cadres who have either laid down their arms to join the mainstream or have joined a different faction. They blame the gaon buras for forcing these cadres to make these decisions which is not the case,” Wangsa said.
Wangsa said when a cadre leaves an organization he normally has some arms and ammunition in his possession.
“The insurgent groups call the village heads or chief to recover those arms. First, they call the village heads for talks and later kidnap them,” he said.
Following the abduction, demands of ransoms are made.
“They demand for large sums of money which leave us with no/little choice, so the villagers come together and contribute their bit,” Wangsa said, while adding that the NSCN (K-YA) is making the kidnappings a source of income for themselves.
Somnai Wangpan, the general secretary of Wancho Council said the people of the TCL belt are tired of the kidnappings and extortion activities.
“They demand house tax, indent tax, etc. from us. This is an open secret and even the government is aware of that. We simply want this to stop,” Wangpan said.
Panjam Wangsu, the general secretary of Longding District Student Union (LDSU) said that their protest is not just against a particular faction of the NSCN but against all those who kidnap innocent villagers and carry out extortion.
They (insurgents) kidnap innocent villagers and gaon buras thinking that the people and the village chiefs have a role to play when an individual joins a different faction of the NSCN. We want to make it clear that neither the gaon buras nor the villagers have any role in this. Most importantly, we never encourage anyone to join an insurgent group, Wangsu said.
The Wancho Council has, meanwhile, submitted a memorandum to Governor B D Mishra, copies of which have also been sent to chief minister Pema Khandu, deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, Lok Sabha MPs Tapir Gao and Kiren Rijiju and Rajya Sabha MP Nabam Rebia, demanding an end to the “kidnapping festival”.
Besides demanding the early release of Wangnaw and Lukham, the council has also called for enhancing security vigilance along the Indo-Myanmar border and the introduction of a rehabilitation package for the surrendered cadres.
It may be mentioned here that the Arunachal Pradesh government has earmarked a budget of Rs 5 crore under its ‘surrender policy’ through which all returnees will be taken care of and helped re-join the mainstream.