16 cadres including 2 ULFA give up with arms and ammunition
SHILLONG/TURA: The proscribed GNLA suffered a major blow on Wednesday when the entire Northern command of the outfit surrendered before Home Minister Roshan Warjri here.
16 cadres including two ULFA militants led by area commander Philiport D Shira alias Rakban and two deputy commanders vowed to join the mainstream.
The surrender is significant in the wake of the massive combing operation code-named “Operation Hill Storm-3” launched by the Meghalaya Police with the backing of the central armed police forces in Garo Hills region in western part of the state.
The man behind the Facebook handle of GNLA’s Garo Mandae also gave himself up with the GNLA commanders. Twenty-year-old Anurag S Sangma @ Mike Aubry @ Garo Mandae hailing from Rongkhon Tura, was the outfit’s media and cyber expert.
Besides Philiport and Anurag, the other cadres who gave up on Wednesday are Serejing SangmA, Chicko Sangma, Nikseng Sangma, , Abikpil Marak, Lando Momin, Chandro Sangma, Sengbarth Marak, Sengrik Sangma, Jil C Marak, Tengrak Marak, Lekston Sangma, Bairut Sangma and Talrik Sangma.
Earlier, Philiport along with other cadres came out of their hideouts in North Garo Hills on Wednesday morning after being persuaded by Church elders, NGOs and their respective families to end their armed struggle.
Family members together with the Church leaders and social groups welcomed the GNLA cadres to the mainstream after they surfaced at Tapa Agitchakgre village, 13 kms from Resubelpara district headquarters, at 8 am.
They were brought to Resubelpara to hand over their weapons and soon after brought to Shillong.
Speaking to media persons during the official surrender ceremony, Meghalaya DGP Rajiv Mehta spoke on the important role played by Church leaders and NGOs in bringing the cadres to the mainstream.
“We have decided to come overground after we were disillusioned with the GNLA leadership and there was no clear objective of the outfit’s demand,” Anurag told reporters after the militants laid down arms
He added that the GNLA usually procures arms from ULFA, NSCN-K, NLFT and others.
Though the Northern command of the outfit is accused of killing of Havaldar Khomraj Bhattarai, the surrendered cadres, however, denied their involvement in the case.
“None of us were involved in his killing and we don’t know who killed him,” Anurag said.
Anurag also said that they have no idea if any politicians have links with GNLA while admitting that they wanted the ceasefire between GNLA and Government to take place but since It did not happened, they decided to join the mainstream.
Meanwhile, Area Commander Philiport Sangma said that his message for other cadres is to leave the outfit and join the mainstream and live a civilian life.
The surrendered cadres also deposited a huge cache of arms and ammunition including 4 AKs, 6 pistols, 1 INSAS, and Carbine grenade, magazines, and 509 live rounds rounds .
The damage to the morale of the GNLA is expected to be of immense proportions given that Philiport was a close confidante of Sohan D Shira. He had single handedly supervised the outfit’s operations in North Garo Hills for well over two long years and was involved in ambush on police teams, abductions, extortion and execution of civilians who went against the demands of the and ideology of the banned outfit.
Police to check records: Meghalaya police PRO GHP Raju said that police will go through all the records to check if the surrendered cadres are involved in crime.
He also denied that any of the surrendered cadres carried any cash reward in the past.
However, in November 4, 2014 as per a police statement, Philiport Shira (Rakban) was one among the 10 GNLA militants wanted by police and a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh was declared on him. Out of the 16 cadres, two cadres belonged to banned militant outfit ULFA in Assam.
The cadre Oproi Assam alias Horinath Rabha said that he had joined ULFA in the year 2011 and then he was asked to work in Assam by ULFA leader Drishti Rajkhowa. He said that there is no battalion system in GNLA even as he added that working system in GNLA is better than ULFA. He also claimed that he is innocent and that he was not involved in any crime.
Another surrendered ULFA cadre is Sengbath Marak.