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Manipur: Rebels fight for a separate Islamic state

Manipur: Rebels fight for a separate Islamic state

Author: Seema Hussain
Publication: The Week
Date: February 15, 2009

The arrest of two Manipuri militants in Guwahati has brought to light the existence of a 15-year-old Islamic militant group from Manipur called the People's United Liberation Front (PULF). The arrested-Noor Sana, 31, and Zakir Hussain, 34-were living in a rented house in the Noonmati area of Guwahati. Until the police swooped down on them on January 16, the Noonmati residents had no idea they were harbouring militants. Landlord Ganesh Chandra Das said Sana told him that she was an employee of the nearby military canteen and was married to Hussain.

The police say Sana has confessed that she is the wife of PULF finance secretary Y.K. Majibullah. Sana and Hussain hail from Thoubal district, which is a PULF stronghold.

After a two-hour raid, the police seized a 9mm pistol, four bullets and incriminating documents, including extortion notes, from the apartment. Reportedly, the PULF's objective is to secure an Islamic state in India's northeast through an armed struggle, with help from regional fundamentalist groups and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. The outfit envisions a society based on Islamic values and has asked Muslims not to take drugs or alcohol, and issued a dress code for women.

Drawing its cadre from Manipur, the outfit also recruits from Barpeta district in western Assam, which has a large Bangladeshi population. A communal clash in the Manipur valley between the Meiteis, who are staunch Vaishnavite Hindus, and the Pangals (Muslims) in 1993 over a monetary transaction left at least 150 dead in the Thoubal district. Subsequently, discontented members of the Muslim community formed the PULF to fight for their rights.

The cadre, numbering around 300, is trained and armed by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), which has supplied it with AK-series rifles, sten guns and carbines. Reportedly, the outfit makes money through extortion.

Asked whether Guwahati has become a hub for terrorists in the region, Assam's director general of police, G.M. Srivastava, told THE WEEK that it had not. "The city is being used by these militants to lie low for a while to escape the heat of the police forces on their trail in their states," he said.

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