Security forces are trying to plug jungle routes used by militants near a vulnerable stretch of the Indo-Myanmar border as part of a renewed counter-insurgency offensive following the death of 18 soldiers in a Manipur ambush, officials said on Friday.
The army and local police have also intensified patrols along National Highway 2, which acts as the lifeline of Nagalnd and Manipur, after receiving reports the NSCN-K was planning to topple the local economy and attack rival groups it felt assisted Indian forces. "The 1,133km stretch of the border from Manipur to Arunachal Pradesh is vulnerable. But plugging jungle routes preferred by militants to move to and from Myanmar is a priority. This means, the stretch from Tuensang to Longding districts," a senior army officer said.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) struck in both these Arunachal Pradesh districts before it attacked an army convoy in Manipur's Chandel district with help from local outfits such as the Kangleipak Communist Party and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup. The attack on June 4 sent ripples through the subcontinent, especially after a pre-emptive offensive by India that destroyed two militant camps inside Myanmar last Tuesday.
The NSCN-K has major camps in the densely-forested mountains east of the Arunachal-Nagaland-Myanmar tri-junction. Soldiers have been deployed in the region for decades but anti-militancy efforts have been hobbled by rebel sanctuaries in neighbouring countries.
The route-plugging strategy was corroborated by Gajen Chetia, a 27-year-old rebel from Assam's Tinsukia district who quit Paresh Baruah's United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent to surrender earlier this week. "The ULFA-I is desperate to regain public support base and is finding alternative corridors as the earlier routes cadres used are no longer safe," Chetia told the police.
The home ministry has prepared a note for the Union Cabinet for declaring the SS Khaplang-led Naga rebel group as outlawed in the wake of the recent series of attacks. Once the Cabinet decides, the NSCN-K will be declared a banned group and will be put in the list of banned organisations under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.