A new Naga rebel outfit has reportedly been recruiting drug addicts across the opium belt of Arunachal Pradesh to broaden its extortion empire.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Reformation had broken away from the NSCN-Khaplang group after the latter ended its 14-year ceasefire in March 2015. Its avowed objective was to pursue the Naga peace process with New Delhi.
But officials in southern Arunachal Pradesh said NSCN-R has been recruiting drug addicts to control the state’s Longding, Tirap and Changlang districts. Rebels of NSCN-K and NSCN-Isak Muivah were hitherto known to operate in these districts that are strategic for movement to and from bases in Myanmar.
“We had last month raided Kheti village in Tirap district on tip off that some rebels were carrying out recruitment and extortion drives there. They managed to escape but we recovered extortion notes and a list of the group’s cadres in the area,” a senior police officer, declining to be quoted, told HT.
Some names in the list were those of drug addicts and offenders, the security forces found.
Apart from Longding, Tirap and Changlang, Lohit and Anjaw districts of southern Arunachal Pradesh are notorious for opium cultivation besides the availability of heroin and methamphetamine from the ‘Golden Triangle of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.
According to Narcotics Control Bureau, Arunachal Pradesh topped the list of states in illegal poppy production for opium during 2014-15. Of the 2,530 acres of poppy crop that NCB destroyed during that fiscal, the state accounted for nearly 40%. NCB officials say the illegal poppy farms are guarded by armed militia who are known to work in coordination with rebels.
State chief minister Nabam Tuki admitted that checking opium cultivation was a major challenge.