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Manipur govt duly informed about arrest of UNLF (P) leaders while CM feigns ignorance


Sidabamapu, “chief of army” of Pambei-led United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Ingba, “chief of intelligence” and “corporal” Landaba have now been remanded to 10-day custody even as Manipur government feigned ignorance about the details of their arrest on March 13.

TFM Special Report

Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh had reportedly stated that the arrest of Sidabamapu, “chief of army” of UNLF (P), Ingba, “chief of intelligence ”and “corporal” Landaba “was made without the state government’s knowledge”.

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The chief minister also appealed to the Union Government for the unconditional release of the three Pambei-led United National Liberation Front (UNLF) leaders “if they are not guilty of any wrongdoing”. Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has remanded the three persons to 10-day custody from March 13 to March 23, 2024.

On the arrest of the UNLF (P) leaders, N Biren Singh had reportedly stated that the state government was not officially intimated about the arrest. However, it has come to light that the NIA on March 13, the day the three were arrested, had officially informed the Superintendent of Police (SP), Imphal West about the arrest in NIA Case No. RC 23/2023/NIA Delhi-reg. The intimation letter to the SP Imphal West also asked him to inform the family members of the three accused.

The NIA letter to SP confirmed the arrest of Thokchom Shyamjai Singh @ Thokchom Gyaneshor @ Thoiba @ Zatawn, @ Zaw Tun @ Shidabamapu, aged 45, son of (late) Th lbotombi, resident of Mayang Imphal, Imphal West; Laimayum Anand Sharma @ Ingba, aged 50, son of (late) L Indreshwar Sharma, resident of Yaiskul Hiruhanba Leikai, Imphal West; and Salam Ibomcha Meitei @ Landaba, aged 38, son of Lokeswar Meitei, resident of Salam Keikhu Langjing, Imphal West. The NIA court granted the remand plea on March 13.

As per reports, Thoiba alias Sidabamapu is the “chief of army” of UNLF (P) while Ingba was the “chief intelligence” and another cade named Landaba was a “corporal” of the outfit.

The three Pambei-led UNLF cadres were taken into custody in connection with case number RC 23/2023/NIA/DLI by NIA, New Delhi. The case is related to a “transnational conspiracy by Myanmar based leadership of militant outfits to wage war against the government of India by exploiting the current ethnic unrest in Manipur.” The three were charged under section 120 B, 121 A, 122 of the IPC and sec 18 (B),39 of the UAPA 1967.

It may be recalled that Moirangthem Anand along with four others were arrested by a team of NIA in connection with the same case number 23 of 2023 of NIA, New Delhi on September 21, 2023. It is under the same case that the three UNLF (P) members were arrested.

Moirangthem Anand was airlifted to New Delhi and he is now lodged in Tihar Jail. Whereas, the four others were released on bail. The NIA has registered the case as suo-moto on July 19, 2023 with case number 23 of 2023 NIA, New Delhi. It now remains to be seen how UNLF (P) leaders are actually related to the case mentioned. UNLF (P) is currently under a “peace agreement” with the Government of India.

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What exactly is NIA Case No. RC-23/2023/NIA/DLI?

NIA Case No. RC-23/2023/NIA/DLI is also known as the “Transnational Conspiracy by Myanmar Based Outfits Case”. The chargesheet filed under section 173 Cr. PC in the Court of Special Judge, NIA Patiala House, New Delhi in the Union of India Versus Hangshi Tangkhul and others, states that:

“The central government had received credible inputs in respect of a transnational conspiracy hatched by Myanmar based leadership of terror outfits operationally active in the North Eastern Indian states to exploit the current ethnic unrest in the state of Manipur to wage a war against the Government of India and execute terrorist attacks thereby exacerbating the current security situation in Manipur.”

The chargesheet dispatched on 07-03-2023 says that “China-Myanmar module of NSCN (I-M) based in Myanmar under the leadership of Hangshi Tangkhul and Absolom Tangkhul” have decided to extend support to proscribed organisations, Kanglei Yawol Kanba Lup (KYKL) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to “infiltrate their cadres into the Indian territory” for carrying out attacks inside the country. For this purpose, the NSCN (I-M) leaders promised “a safe passage along with arms, ammunition, explosives and other terrorist hardware” to Manipur based outfits and proscribed organisations.

“In addition, these outfits have also been tasked to identify, recruit and train impressionable youths and get then involved in the ongoing violence with the larger goal of destabilizing the security situation in Manipur and to further wage a war against the Government of India”, said the same chargesheet.

Hence, a case was registered on 19-07-2023 by the NIA in compliance of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Codes and The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UA(P) Act 1967).

Subsequently on 16-09-2023, Moirangthem Anand along with four others were arrested by a team of NIA in connection with the same case number 23 of 2023 of NIA, New Delhi on September 21, 2023.

Transnational Conspiracy by Myanmar Based Outfits Case and armed groups in Northeast

NIA Case No. RC-23/2023/NIA/DLI or “Transnational Conspiracy by Myanmar Based Outfits Case” in the chargesheet submitted earlier clearly makes an attempt to establish how groups like National Socialist Council of Nagalim – NSCN (I-M), KYKL and PLA extended support to each other. However, how the leaders of the Pambei-led UNLF are related to the “conspiracy” is one big question being asked by political watchers and observers in Manipur.

“The centre, particularly the Ministry of Home Affairs seems to be working on a grand plan to implicate as many armed political groups operating in Manipur and across the Indo-Myanmar border irrespective of whether they are in different stages of political engagements with New Delhi. Hence, we see even the NSCN (I-M) has also been linked with KYKL or PLA and now even UNLF (P) in the  NIA’s “Transnational Conspiracy by Myanmar Based Outfits Case”. All these apparently pertain to those armed groups who supposedly waging a war against India”, opines a political observer who does not want to be identified.

There had been valley-wide protests launched by several civil society organisations on the arrest of the three leaders. One common refrain that can be heard from the public is “How can leaders or cadres of an outfit under peace agreement with the Government of India be arrested by NIA randomly?” or “What impact would such arrests being made with the official green signal from the Ministry of Home Affairs have on the way how the peace-agreement unfolds?”. As protests over the arrest of UNLF (P) leaders continue, the would definitely be some form of strategized operations to keep the proscribed armed groups in Manipur and the Northeast India under the control of New Delhi while observers are kept on tenterhooks.

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