Do politicians and parties across the northeast enjoy a nexus with outlawed militants? Some might seem to if the social set-up and demographic patterns are taken into consideration, said an Assam minister on Tuesday.
The issue of politician-militant nexus has dogged the region ever since the elite northeast study group — supercop KPS Gill was a key member — had submitted a report to the Centre five years ago. The report claimed MLAs in the region pay militant groups an average Rs 11 lakh to stay in power.
The debated was stoked again last week when Khiren Rijiju, the BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh, said in the Lok Sabha that an influential minister in the Tarun Gogoi Cabinet was an Ulfa member who did not surrender. Rijiju also accused some militants of running the show in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
"Link with militant outfits depends on how you look at the social and demographic set-up in the region. There’s no point making vague allegations," said Sarma. "If one has specific information, he should name the minister instead of beating about the bush."
According to Sarma, "virtually everyone knows everybody" in close-knit societies across the northeast, and no political leader can claim not to have been the neighbour, friend or colleague of one militant or the other. "If Sarbananda Sonowal (Asom Gana Parishad MP from Dibrugarh) had friends in the university who joined the Ulfa later on, does that mean he has links with the outfit?" he asked.
Notably, elections in Assam are said to be won or lost depending on which side the Ulfa or outfits such as NDFB is on. In Nagaland, the Congress is believed to be pro-NSCN (Khaplang) while the regional Nagaland Peoples’ Front and its BJP ally is accused of patronizing the NSCN (Isak-Muivah). Likewise, Opposition leaders have accused Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga—an ex-rebel himself—of being in league with certain tribal militant groups.
More recently, Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh became a Manipur Peoples’ Party MLA from Andro constituency. He was arrested in New Delhi on October 9 for being a sympathiser of the outlawed United National Liberation Front.