Demonetisation: Meghalaya Police nab three GNLA terrorists, hopes for more to surrender soon

Despite the Opposition claims that demonetisation has failed to make the desired impact on terrorist groups, Meghalaya Police has successfully used it as a tool to fight the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), one of the dreaded outfits in the state.

The Meghalaya Police has not only contained regrouping of the terrorist outfit but also made one of its top leaders, Nikam C Momin alias Baichung C, surrender using demonetisation as part of its strategy. Momin, who is the second in command of the outfit surrendered on last Friday after failing to convert old currency notes amounting to Rs 27 lakh.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Anand Mishra, Superintendent of Police, South Garo Hills District told Firstpost, “Due to incessant operations by the Meghalaya Police, the group had already become weaker than earlier. Demonetisation came as a bolt from the blue for the outfit. It was like a final blow to the GNLA. ”

Soon after Momin, another aide of the group, Lingdho N Sangma, surrendered on the same night. The Meghalaya Police expect the entire group to surrender soon along with its commander-in-chief Sohan D Shira.

“We have to wait for a month or so before the entire GNLA winds up,” says Mishra.

The surrender by the two GNLA members has happened after repeated claims in the media that demonetisation has failed to create the desired impact on north eastern terrorist outfits since a large number of tribes in the region are exempted from income tax.

“It is true that many tribes in the region are free from the legal compulsion to file income tax returns. Hence, it is often believed that money deposited in the bank accounts of the tax exempted region are not subject to scrutiny,” said an official in Assam Police, posted in the Assam-Meghalaya border of the region.

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“But it is clearly not the case. A person suspected to be transacting terror money can be subjected to investigation and interrogation,” he added.

Rather than waiting for the terrorist groups to get frustrated on account of failure in currency conversion, the Meghalaya Police prepared a pro-active counter-terrorism strategy tailored to take advantage of the situation created by demonetisation.

“We learnt from sources that the GNLA has enough old currency notes to convert into the new ones. Since the leaders could not come to the banks themselves to convert the currency, we had every reason to believe that they will employ conduits to do the same,” said Mishra. The Meghalaya Police kept an eye on the over-ground cadres of the terrorist outfit.

“Since effective sensitisation has been made among the people about the risk of converting currency derived from doubtful sources, people have become cautious. So, terror groups are now left with no other option but to send their over-ground cadres to exchange the currency,” says a police official in Assam.

The strategy helped the police arrest three conduits who deposited Rs 27 lakhs of terror money in a bank, thus leading to the surrender of Baichung.

Mishra also informed that the Meghalaya Police has seized one crore rupees terror money after demonetisaion.

Normally, the extortion money that the GNLA collects is kept in the form of cash by the militant outfit. “The group wraps the currency notes with polythene and put them in a dry moulded plastic water tank. These tanks are then buried in the forest,” Mishra said, explaining the money hiding method used by the GNLA.

Earlier, the north-eastern terrorist groups had the option to convert Indian Rupee to Bangladeshi currency. However, Mishra says that this option is closed for them after demonetisation because old Indian currency notes are also not accepted in Bangladesh eiher.

The GNLA has also been debilitated by repeated counter-insurgency measures launched by the Meghalaya Police. “Now the group is left with only 20 to 25 cadres. After the final blow of demonetisation, we hope all of them will surrender soon,” said Mishra.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 08:33 IST

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