Too many to count, illegal arms still Assamís headache

FP

Last Thursday, even as fresh incidents of violence prompted the authorities to reimpose curfew in Kokrajhar, the Home Ministry sent an advisory to the Assam government to launch an operation to seize all illegal arms and ammunition in circulation, especially in the Bodoland districts.

In fact, in investigations not related to the Kokrajhar violence, police and security forces had already made two major arms hauls, one on the outskirts of Guwahati and the other on the Meghalaya border. From Khetri near Guwahati, they seized two AK-56 rifles, two shotguns, six .32 bore revolvers, a grenade, and ammunition. The other seizure comprised two AK-47s, a hand grenade, electronic decanters and ordinary detonators, assorted fuses and a 7.65 mm pistol, besides ammunition.

"Yes, it is a fact that a large number of illegal arms and ammunition are floating across Assam. While the major chunk of it definitely comes from Dimapur, arms also come in from West Bengal, Bihar and other parts of central India. These include both foreign-made and local weapons," says Assam Director General of Police Jayanta Narayan Choudhury.

Besides, various militant groups that have entered into ceasefires and peace talks have retained some of the arms they had procured. There are also reports that in outfits taking steps towards peace, cadres have deserted their camps and taken away some arms and ammunition. When 676 cadres of nine militant groups had surrendered in Guwahati in the presence of then home minister P Chidambaram, they had laid down only 202 weapons.

On Saturday, the Assam Police "recovered" two illegal AK-47 rifles from the residence of a former Bodoland Liberation Tigers leader, Mano Kumar Brahma, who is currently an executive member (equivalent to a minister) in the Bodoland Territorial Council.

State home secretary G D Tripathi says while possession of sophisticated illegal arms by insurgents is a well-known fact, a large number of illegal weapons, both locally made as well as factory-made, are in circulation among civilians.

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