Protests in Arunachal as Naga rebels demand recruits


Guwahati : People in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh held protests Thursday after a frontline Naga separatist group, accused of abducting between 39 to 51 boys last month, demanded more recruits from villages along the border with Myanmar, officials said.

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“The Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) has sent notices to 13 villages in Tirap district asking for 227 more boys to join the outfit, leading to protests in the area,” a police spokesman said from Itanagar, the state capital.

Officials said about 100 youths have already been recruited by the NSCN-K from Changlang and Tirap districts in the last six months or so.

Of the 51 that are said to have been forcibly taken away last month for arms training in Myanmar, 23 are still in the group’s custody while the rest have either been freed by the rebels or have escaped, the police said.

The NSCN-K has denied the charges. “We do not recruit cadres forcibly and these are all false allegations. We have cadres from Arunachal Pradesh but all of them have joined us voluntarily,” Kughalo Mulatonu, a senior NSCN-K leader, told IANS by telephone from an undisclosed location.

There have been reports of protests in Tirap district by local villagers Sunday following the fresh demand for cadres.

“There are protests by locals as nobody wants the youths to join militant groups. We are in touch with the union home ministry over this,” Takam Sanjay, adviser to the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister, told IANS.

Authorities have beefed up security measures, deploying the army and paramilitary forces in the area.

“We are really concerned over such reports and have already beefed up security measures in the two districts to ensure that our boys are not forcibly recruited,” Sanjay said.

The matter has generated a lot of heat in Arunachal Pradesh with Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu bringing it to the notice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to the state.

Even the influential All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union, the state’s apex student group, has accused the NSCN-K of abducting youths from Tirap and Changlang districts.

Two cases have been lodged with the police in Arunachal Pradesh concerning the ‘abducted’ youths.

The NSCN-K, fighting for a Naga homeland and currently operating a ceasefire agreement with the Indian government, has considerable presence and influence in Tirap and Changlang districts.

The group’s headquarters is located across the border in Myanmar where it is said to have up to 5,000 cadres.