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Published in the 1-15 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

No Muslim outfit involved
Arms haul in Bangladesh
By Shakil Ahmed

Imphal: In a first major arms haul in South-East Asia Bangladesh security agencies had seized a large consignment of weapons on the night of 1st April. The weapons were found in ten trucks in Chittagong a port city connecting the South-east Asian countries. Immediately after the seizure around 16 persons said to be members of different insurgent outfits in the North-east region of India were arrested in Bangladesh. Mr. G.M. Srivastava , DGP of Tripura, told PTI that the arms were meant for some destinations in North-east India. He said the arrested militants belong to United Liberarion Front of Assam (ULFA), Peoples' Liberartion Army (PLA), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup(KYKL) of Manipur and All Tripura Tribal Force (ATTF) of Tripura. None of these outfits is Muslim. ULFA is a Hindu outfit.PLA and KYKL are Meitei outfits and ATTF is a tribal outfit.

Latest reports, quoting Bangladeshi sources, say that arms were "shipped from the USA and Pakistan to arm Indian rebels camped in Chittagong Hill Tracts".The mayor of Chittagong ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury was quoted to have, said, "I challenged anyone to prove me wrong". The seized weapons include Israeli-made Uzi-rifles. The consignment was so huge that it took 14 hours for the Bangladesh security agencies to count them.

It has been a contention of India for a long time , pursued spiritedly after Awami League assumed power in Dhaka, that anti-India militant outfits have their bases in Bangladesh. However, under the guise of fighting terrorism some sections try to spin the situation here in the region unfavourably toward the Muslims. What is significant in this arms cache and later arrest of persons belonging to different outfits and subsequent speculation is that not a single Muslim outfit has been named or alleged as a beneficiary of the consignment.
This again pooh-poohs the assertion that the NE has become a fertile ground for what is consistently being labelled as "Islamic Terrorism". It would be a little far-fetched to put the activities arising out of local grievances in the same league with so-called international terrorism which now begins to be seen as widely divisive phenomenon owing to Israeli brutality against Palestinian people in the Occupied Territory. Attempts to paint Muslims wherever they are with a massive sweep of a brush is at best unrealistic and may dampen any genuine effort to tackle the menace of terrorism , independent of religion.

Militant activities in the NE region need to be tackled and solved for the development of the country. The pattern and religious affiliations of militant outfits clearly show that they are predominantly non-Muslims. And these active, strong and non-Muslim outfits are surely not trying to establish an "Islamic State" in the region. Rather it would see them a Christian (NSCN), Hindu (ULFA), Meitei (PLA etc) and tribal outfits of Tripura which also have grievances that perhaps need to be looked into to solve. Clearly militancy cuts religious divide. It suggests that it would be more fruitful to explain militancy from other perspectives rather than from the religious angle.

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