[ Amar Sangno ]
ITANAGAR, Jul 26: John Wangsa (name changed), who is supposedly 17 years old (although the police are disputing his stated age) and a native of Konnu village in Pangchou circle of Longding district, would never have imagined that he would walk into a ‘staged surrender’ trap set up by the Assam Rifles (AR).
Frustrated with an insurgent’s life, Wangsa had decided to surrender himself before the Indian Army to free himself from the clutches of his NSCN (K) bosses.
On 23 July, after all arrangements had been made for him to surrender at the 16th AR camp in Konsa village, under the Pangchou police station, Wangsa, accompanied by three village elders, Wanglan Wangsa, Chailai Wangsu, and Chailai Wangsu, went to the AR camp.
As per the agreement, Wangsa had to surrender at the AR camp. However, he claimed that he was intercepted and apprehended by an AR team while he was on his way to the camp. The AR personnel asked the village elders to return to the village.
“I was taken into their custody. Once I reached the camp, I was handed a 9 mm pistol with three live rounds of bullets by the Army, and they asked me to confess that I had been apprehended with arms,” Wangsa claimed.
He added that the NSCN (K) never gives arms to its operatives when they are on leave.
“I was brought to the Pongchau police station, and a case (No PCH/PS/C/No-08/2019, US 10/13 UA (P) Act /251B (a) Arms Act) was registered,” he said.
A joint examination by premier intelligence agencies was conducted in Longding on Wednesday, during which Wangsa said the AR had ‘planted’ the firearm after he had surrendered.
He was later produced before the court of the judicial magistrate (first class), where he repeated his claim.
Longding JMFC Epi Kapu has confirmed Wangsa’s statement. Wangsa was sent to the juvenile home in East Siang HQ Pasighat on Friday for rehabilitation.
When contacted, an officer of the AR refused to comment on the issue, stating that he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Wangsa had reportedly been conscripted into the NSCN (K) by one Langkhu Akha, also of Konnu village, in 2012. Wangsa claimed that he had been “abducted and forced into three months’ rigorous training with the 5th battalion of the NSCN (K) at Gangloi Kuh village in Myanmar.”
He claimed that he was only 12 years old at the time he had been taken away. However, the police and intelligence agencies dispute his stated age, saying that he might be faking his age, as it
would have been virtually impossible for Wangsa to have walked across the treacherous hilly terrains of the Indo-Myanmar border at that age.
After training, Wangsa was reportedly deployed as a guard of a self-styled brigadier of the NSCN (K), and was engaged in household chores like sweeping, washing clothes, cooking and feeding pigs, without payment or enough food.
He had come to his village on a four-day leave of absence on 23 April this year, during the Oriya festival. Fearing for his life, he did not go back to the militant camp and was hiding from the Indian Army in the huts in the jhum fields in his village. Wangsa’s parents brought him food every week to his hiding place.
“Fed up with this life, I asked my village elders to help me surrender. My elders told me that if I surrendered, I would receive benefits under the surrender and rehabilitation scheme,” he said.
“Now I am confused why our Army should hand over the gun to me and register a case against me. I should not have surrendered under such circumstance,” Wangsa rued.
Staged surrender of ‘militants’ by the Army and the AR, using innocent youths as scapegoats, branding them as hardcore militants, often surfaces in Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts. However, such stories either go unreported or are represented by the media as being cases of actual apprehension.
[ Amar Sangno ]