Assam tribal outfit trades hostages for education of girls

  • Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
  • Updated: Jul 17, 2016 01:10 IST
Forest ranger Manoj Kumar Sinha, left, was in the first week of July abducted by BNLF members form southern Assam’s Hailakandi district. (HT Photo)

Terror or insurgent groups usually trade hostages for jailed members or release them after receiving ransom in cash.

A tribal outfit in Assam has deviated from this rule to free their hostages for a promise that the education of 100 girls of the community it represents would be taken care of.

Members of the Bru National Liberation Front, representing the Bru or Reang tribe, had in the first week of July abducted forest ranger Manoj Kumar Sinha and two others in southern Assam’s Hailakandi district.

The two are residents of Badlabadli, a Muslim village close to the Mizoram border and about 360km south of Guwahati.

The militants took their hostages to a forest on the Assam-Mizoram border, but the villagers were in a belligerent mood.

The district administration held meetings with the Muslims and Reangs and promised help but warned against “lawlessness”.

“Abductions from across the border are frequent, and we discussed the problem with the governor (PB Acharya) when he visited the district before this incident,” Moloy Bora, Hailakandi deputy commissioner, told Hindustan Times.

The governor, he said, took the initiative for sponsoring the education of 100 Reang girls in the pattern of the Centre’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign.

The local MP, MLAs and leaders of all political parties in the district accepted the proposal.

“I communicated this to the commander of the extremist group and assured development for the Reangs. We reunited the hostages, released on the evening of July 5, with members of their families,” Bora said.

The rebels, used to cash as ransom, were surprised by the offer.

“But we accepted in the greater interest of our community,” a BNLF spokesperson, claiming to be S Chorky, said.

That day, Bora tweeted to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, seeking her help in bringing back the daughter of a district official detained in Istanbul airport for not possessing a transit visa.

Swaraj intervened and Aradhana Barooah, daughter of inspector of schools KK Barooah, reached Mumbai a few hours later.

Know the rebels:

Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), is a militant group active in areas bordering Assam, Mizoram and Tripura

Intelligence agencies say the outfit has a little more than 100 members

Objective is protection of rights and dignity of Brus, also called Reangs, particularly those displaced from Mizoram

BNLF also resents alleged imposition of Christianity on Brus of Mizoram

BNLF, operating from dense jungles in the Assam-Mizoram-Tripura tri-junction, generates funds by abducting people for ransom, sometimes for a few thousand rupees.

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