Meghalaya militant leader still a police officer in records

Friday, July 30, 2010

SHILLONG - Believe it or not: a Meghalaya police officer-turned-militant, Champion R. Sangma, is still a Deputy Superintendent of Police in the Meghalaya police records, a police official said Friday.

Champion floated the militant Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) in 2008 and took to the jungles.

“I have recommended to the government that Champion R. Sangma is dismissed from service, but it has not been done so far,” Director General of Police S.B. Kakati said.

“I wasn’t sure why the government has not dismissed his service. May be the legal angle to his dismissal is being looked into. I can’t say anything on that,” he added.

Kakati said Champion was indisciplined as an officer and his dismissal was sought on several instances.

“He (Champion) never attended work and remained absent for months, therefore his post was never made permanent and his dismissal was sought after a departmental inquiry into his conduct,” the police chief added.

Champion, whose dream is to fight for a ’sovereign Garoland’ in the western area of Meghalaya, has forged a close operational relationship with other northeast-based insurgents groups such as Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

GNLA’s foot soldiers are deserters, mostly from the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) and the Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF).

The GNLA has slapped extortion demands ranging from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore on legislators, government officials and businessmen.

“Champion has been teasing the state police and other security forces with his repeated SMSes about his weapons and his contacts,” Kakati said.

One of his SMS went: “I am trying to get AK-47 from the NSCN (IM) in day or two and we will replenish our arms and ammunition”, the police chief recalled.

In a recent picture, some GNLA men posed with an LMG, Uzis and other weaponry. Champion even called up journalists here recently and boasted of having contacts in China, Myanmar and with other northeast-based militants.

Infact, the Meghalaya police earlier seized a machine gun, an Uzi sub-machine gun, grenades, bombs, a laptop and incriminating documents recovered from the GNLA general headquarters.

The police recently zeroed in on one of the outfits’ hideouts in South Garo hills jungles, but Champion and his men managed to escape. He left behind an Italian made Beretta pistol, extortion notes and a cap with “Champion” written on it.

Meghalaya, especially the Garo Hill region, is being used as a safe haven for various northeast-based militants groups including the NSCN-IM, the ULFA and the anti-talk faction of the NDFB.

With the outlawed A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) on a ceasefire agreement with the central government, the NSCN (IM) and the ULFA spawned several militant groups with the main intention of exploiting the lucrative extortion in the coal-rich areas of the Garo Hills region.

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