Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana has threatened the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militants with a force he said they will not recover from if they do not release the Border Roads Organization overseer and driver they are suspected to have abducted earlier this week.
In a noteworthy statement, R Lalzirliana meanwhile attempted to partially absolve Bru Democratic Front of Mizoram (BDFM) militants suspected to be involved in this and previous abductions by saying they are often “forced under threat of death to take part” in such abductions.
In an address to party workers at Congress Bhavan on Friday, the Home Minister said, “If they do not release the two men they have abducted, the government will show its anger in such a way that they will never carry out such operations again.”
Suspected NLFT and BDFM militants had on February 2 abducted the duo – overseer Hukum Singh of Haryana and driver Thangchhuaha of Mizoram, both employees of the 115 RCC, road maintenance battalion of the Border Roads Organization – on a lonely stretch between Tuipuibari and Chikha in western Mamit district.
The militants along with their captives crossed into Bangladesh immediately after the abduction and are reportedly in the Zopui area of Rangamati district. Mizoram Police have meanwhile arrested Rajmani of Tuipuibari-1 township, a former cadre of the disbanded Bru National Liberation Front, for allegedly guiding the militants.
In his address, the Home Minister however said, “I do not know if the Bru tribals are easy targets not worth fearing for our NGOs and others, but I have been told that they only function under the graces of the NLFT.”
“If the Bru tribals refuse to help them, the NLFT simply kills them. Therefore they are forced to take part,” R Lalzirliana said, in apparent reply to various student unions’ and NGO’s statements in the past blaming Bru militants for these abductions.
NLFT and BDFM militants have in the past five years carried out at least eight kidnappings in the Bangladesh-Tripura-Mizoram tri-junction region of western Mizoram.
Mizoram Police have rescued some victims and negotiated the release of others, but critics have pointed out the recurring kidnappings seem to mean some amount of ransom may have been paid.
The Mizoram government, like Tripura, has long said the sprawling relief camps housing tens of thousands of Bru tribals who fled ethnic violence in Mizoram in 1997 is a breeding ground of criminals and militants.
R Lalzirliana said Friday the government would “do its best” to make the planned final six-month repatriation of these displaced tribals a success.