Saga of cross-border abduction near Pillar No 128 and 129

By FrontierManipur | Published On 02nd Apr, 2021, 03:33 GMT+0530

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Thumlan Vashum and three of his friends abducted by NSCN-K on March 25 were released on Wednesday. An Assam Rifles officer said Myanmar nationals crossing the international border, entering Indian soil and kidnapping the citizens of India is a direct threat and challenge to the security of a nation

Tennoson Pheiray

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she hugged her son Thumlan Vashum who has been in captivity for seven days in the hands of NSCN-K. Thumlan Vashum and three of his friends were abducted by NSCN-K on March 25. They were released on March 31, 2021.

The Village Authority of Tusom and Commanding Officer of 27 Assam Rifles, Rippon Bora along with media persons from Ukhrul received them at 8.00 pm near the India-Myanmar border.

Thumlan Vashum of New Tusom, NK Thanreimi of Chingai, RS Pamshnag of Poi and R Canaan of Poi were abducted from Zlanglailawui area between Tusom and Challou near International Border Pillar No. 128 and 129 around 11.30 am on March 25. They were kept at NSCN-K camp in New Kongkailong, Myanmar.

Before their release, Headman of Tusom, Shangmayo Vashum told the TFM Ukhrul correspondent that “we suspect that this is the handiwork of Khaplang and Leboh Clan of Somrah Khullen. They did the same last year. One from Kharasom and another from Chingai, a driver and handyman of bulldozer who were making an approach road of Tusom about 3 km away from the International Border Pillar No. 128 and 129 were abducted and released only after payment of Rs 4.3 lakh ransom.”

“We have communicated to Ato Longphang and other Longnao. Since there was no fruitful response, we also approached the Assam Rifles to help secure the safe release of four people who had been abducted while working near the border,” he added.

The Village Authority of Tusom and 27 Assam Rifles have been waiting and anticipating their release since day one. Travelling the slushy muddy road and braving the heavy rain, they began their wait on the border around 10.20 am. They make campfires at the roadside to fight the chilly wind and make frantic calls with the poor mobile signal that plays hide and seek. The lies and repeated lies of the date and timing of the release by the people on the Myanmar side was a time of testing the quality and temperament of the people waiting on Indian side.

Somrah Khullen is about 15 km from Tusom. Shangmayo Vashum stated, “We don’t have any issues with our cross border trade with Somrah. We have visited two times to Somrah Khullen when this incident surfaced. We could not meet the leaders or cadres of Khaplang (NSCN-K) but we met the Somrah Council consisting of three Chairmen and four members. They assured us during our meeting on March 27, 2021 that they will ensure the safe release of the four abducted persons at the earliest. We have come to know that our people were being held up at New Kongkailong, Myanmar. This kind of unwanted activity can sour the peaceful relationship that has existed for a long time between the two border villages. Our third team left for New Kongkailong on March 30, 2021 to meet the leaders of NSCN-K.”

Thangba Lepoh in the year 2003-06 had filed a case at Ato Longphang and TNL Karot claiming that the land near Pillar No. 128 and 129 belonged to him. In both the cases, the authority has given judgement in favour of Tusom. The problem resurfaced again in 2020. Thangpa Lepoh is dead, but his sons Samatai Lepoh and Tayangpoh of Somrah Khullen are the mastermind behind the kidnapping and abduction of four persons and demand for ransom. The two instigated the Khaplang and are sharing the share, alleged the villagers of Tusom.

Speaking to this correspondent after the release, Thumlan Vashum s/o Ningkhan Vashum of Tusom recalled the journey. “It was around 11.30am, I was lying in the makeshift camp. Suddenly five workers came running to the camp and informed me that seven armed persons had come and rounded up the other labour group. The armed persons called us and took away four of us to their camp in Myanmar. We marched by foot and had dinner at Somrah paddy field. We rested at Somrah village for a while and they contacted for transportation and took us to Old Kongkailong and we halted the night there on March 25. On March 26 evening, we were shifted to New Kongkailong and kept there until our release on March 31,” he said.

“On March 28, CSOs from Somrah visited us and informed us that it is beyond their authority. Khaplang cadres informed us that due to reports from Somrah people they have come to arrest them. They said that they will release us only after meeting with the owner. It was only after a team from Tusom visited their camp and made an agreement that they released us,” he added.

“The cadre treated us very well. I told them that a huge contingent of Indian Army (Assam Rifles) is coming from the other side to rescue them. Through telephonic conversation with our parents and friends, we have come to know that the Assam Rifles is actively involved in rescuing us. The NSCN-K cadre even requested us not to allow the Assam Rifles to cross the border and enter the village while they are kept which is roughly about 60 km away from the international boundary. “

The relentlessly pressure, threat and lobbying and display of movement by 27 Assam Rifles at the Indian side finally paid off and they were received and warmly welcome on the border at 08.00pm.

Shangmayo Vashum stated “we are grateful to AR for their positive response and their help in securing the release of four persons from the captivity of NSCN-K.”

An Assam Rifles officer said that cross border abduction or kidnapping is a serious issue and they have been closely monitoring the situation. Myanmar nationals crossing the international border, entering Indian soil and kidnapping the citizens of India is a direct threat and challenge to the security of a nation, he said. Commanding Officer of 27 Assam Rifles Col. Rippon Bora had been stationing at COB of 27 AR at Tusom CV since March 28 and closely monitoring the development. He left late last night for Somsai only after supervising and securing the safe release of the four abducted persons.

The NSCN-K issued a statement that the four persons were arrested due to the unsettled and disputed case between Shangmayo Vashum, Headman of Tusom vs L Thangba. Sources informed that Rs.1 lakh was paid to the NSCN-K for the release of the four abducted persons and another Rs. 2 lakh will be paid to the armed group on or before April 7, 2021. It is also learnt that the outfit has given an order barring any timber or logging related activities work at the said dispute area till the case is settled.

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