Guwahati: A serving Assam Rifles personnel has raised voice against his seniors and several officers of the security forces for allegedly conniving with surrendered militants and covertly procuring weapons for ‘fake encounters’ and ‘staged surrenders’.
The story was first reported in the Imphal Free Press, an English daily published in Manipur.
Speaking to News18, Naib Subedar Ramesh Chand Sharma, of 30th Assam Rifles, narrated his stint as a Junior Commissioned Officer in the allegedly planned, ordered and facilitated Khukhrul Spinning Mills case in Manipur five years ago. He also disclosed an alleged frame-up by security forces in 2013 when an innocent was ‘falsely framed’ as militant, arrested and later jailed.
Ramesh now wants either a Special Investigation Team to look into the cases, or a CBI inquiry.
“I want action against those involved in these cases. Justice should prevail. What they have done is against the law,” said Ramesh.
When asked why did he wait for five years to speak, Ramesh said he had written letters to the Home Ministry and the then Chief of Army Staff in this regard, and is still awaiting a response.
The Director General Assam Rifles (DG AR), Shillong, says the investigation in the matter is underway. However, they have not released an official statement as yet.
Top army sources say, Ramesh Chand is a habitual offender and has got various black and red ink punishment entries during the tenure of his service. Army sources added that there are ‘factual errors’ in his statement.
Nevertheless, the JCO’s revelations have raised suspicion on military operations in Manipur.
Ramesh Chand, who was then serving as the platoon commander at ‘B Company’ in Khurkhul, Imphal West, claimed that he was ordered by the second-in-command of ‘B Company’ on February 3, 2013 to head to the Mantripukhri Assam Rifles headquarters in a bullet proof vehicle, along with three others - two jawans and a driver.
In the early morning hours, he met with the commandant of 30th Assam Rifles near the CO office, along with six other personnel. Ramesh said he received no briefing, but was handed over a sum of Rs 3 lakh and ordered to deliver it to a person standing at the main gate of Mantripukhri headquarters. He was later joined by a ‘Ghatak’ QRT team comprising 14 armed personnel, who accompanied him to the location.
Ramesh handed over the money to a certain Laichonba, whom he identified as a surrendered United National Liberation Front (UNLF) cadre.
Laichonba directed the team to move to the next location. Another five surrendered cadres were picked up from the 7 Manipur Rifles camp at Pangei.
The vehicle then proceeded to the 26 sector camp located at Pallel. While Ramesh and the Ghatak team went for lunch, the surrendered team met with the Company Commander of 42 AR ‘B Company’.
Later that evening, the Company Commander handed over two new pistols and a lethod gun to Ramesh, and ordered him to return to Mantripukhri HQ.
On the way, another order was relayed to drop the surrendered rebels at the Khabeisoi Manipur Rifles camp in Chandel district. Ramesh said that upon reaching Mantripukhri camp, Commandant of 30 AR called him to his office where the weapons were photographed.
He added that the unmarked weapons were later taken to the Khurkhul AR post and deposited at the arms kote in presence of the 2IC. He revealed that there were more than two dozen unmarked weapons, including Chinese hand grenades, kept at the arms kote.
Ramesh Chand also revealed how senior military officers, including his superiors, plotted an incident on May 13, 2013 when an ‘innocent’ village girl Leisangthem Lata Devi was falsely framed for procuring arms.
Ramesh said the girl was wrongfully charged, arrested and sent to jail. Her family had to go through a lot to arrange the bail money.
“She was offered an amount of Rs 50 thousand as ‘prize money’ and was asked to surrender. They (senior officers and security personnel of ‘B Company’) planned this on May 13. The company commander of 30 AR and his advisors were involved,” said Ramesh.
However, top army sources said the charges against the company commander are false as the officer was not present at Laikoching on the mentioned date, but had joined duty on May 17, 2013.
Ramesh also implicated 3 JCOs of 30th AR camp at Laikoiching who were assigned to pack arms - one 9mm pistol with three live rounds and a Chinese grenade. He narrated how the packet was handed over to Lata Devi at a pharmacy. When the packet was received from Lata in presence of the post commander of 30 AR at Laikoiching, she was arrested by police commandos on charges of being a militant.
Naib Subedar Ramesh Sharma now wants the government to ensure that senior army officers are punished in cases of grave human rights violation and held criminally liable for illegal acts on basis of evidence.
(With inputs from Noren Ninghombam)