Monday, July 5, 2010

Rebels quarry for cash

Shillong, July 4: The Khasi militant outfit, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), has opened a stone quarry in Bangladesh near Dawki in Jaintia Hills, after a scarcity of cash because of its inability to carry out largescale extortion.The outfit also has several betel nut plantations in Bangladesh to earn extra income to conduct its operations.“We came to know of the existence of a stone quarry owned by the HNLC in Bangladesh from the arrested and surrendered militants,” East Khasi Hills superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh told reporters today.“They also have betel nut plantations along the border to eke out a living,” Mawthoh said.The police claimed that as they were keeping a strict vigil, the HNLC was unable to carry out any extortion in Shillong for the past several years.This may have prompted the outfit to run businesses like the stone quarries and betel nut plantations.The police said many HNLC cadres worked at both the places.They also believe that members of the HNLC travelled on boats on the Umngot river in Dawki, along with Bangladeshis, to collect boulders for the stone quarry.With the onset of winter when the water level is low, many Bangladeshis come in large numbers to the Umngot river to collect boulders.The BSF apprehended a self-styled sergeant major of the HNLC, Pariston Pakyntein, near Dawki in May.He confessed to the police that the HNLC had been running the stone quarry somewhere near Jaflong in Sylhet district of Bangladesh for the past two years and many cadres continued to work in the quarry.The outfit, formed two decades ago and fighting for an independent Khasi homeland, was active in Khasi hills and carried out killings, kidnappings and extortion till 2004.R.G. Lyngdoh, home minister in 2004, came down hard on the HNLC and the department had filed several cases against many businessmen who had donated money to the militants under threat.The home department’s action had paid dividends, as extortion had reduced to a certain extent.The police had also busted several finance cells of the HNLC in parts of Shillong, besides arresting senior cadres who were manning these cells.The biggest setback for the HNLC was the surrender of its chairman Julius Dorphang in 2007.After Dorphang came overground, there was largescale exodus of HNLC cadres from their camps in Bangladesh.The police claim that at present, the total strength of the outfit is below 50, as more than 150 had surrendered in the past.The firepower of the outfit also reduced considerably.Though the chairman of the outfit came overground, other top leaders like general secretary Cherishsterfield Thangkiew and commander-in-chief Bobby Marwein along with a few cadres are still in Bangladesh.The top leaders vowed to carry on with the organisation despite the setbacks.


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