Opium link in Arunachal MLA’s killing not ruled out

NSCN (IM) denies involvement, call its propaganda of the Indian agencies to derail the ‘Indo-Naga’ peace process

May 22, 2019 10:27 pm | Updated 11:32 pm IST - GUWAHATI

The police in Arunachal Pradesh have not ruled out the possibility of an opium cartel being involved in the gunning down of a legislator and 10 others in the State’s Tirap district on Tuesday.

Members of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, or NSCN (IM), are suspected to have killed MLA Tirong Aboh, 42, and the others at Bogapani, about 20 km from Tirap district headquarters Khonsa.

Mr. Aboh was the National People’s Party candidate for the Khonsa West Assembly seat. He had won the seat in 2014 as a candidate of the People’s Party of Arunachal.

The NSCN (IM) has denied involvement, blaming it on the propaganda of the Indian agencies to derail the “Indo-Naga” peace process, meaning its ceasefire with New Delhi since July 1997.

“The ambush on the four vehicles the victims were travelling in bears the sign of an underground group, most likely the NSCN which has many factions. There are chances of connection of these groups with the opium growers,” said Sunil Garg, the State’s Inspector General of Police (Law and Order).

Opium belt

The “TCL region” of southern Arunachal Pradesh has for long been notorious for the turf war between the NSCN (IM) and NSCN (Khaplang) besides illicit opium cultivation. TCL expands to Tirap, Changlang, and Longding districts.

According to a 2013 survey by the Narcotics Control Bureau, opium cultivation is widespread in TCL, the adjoining districts of Anjaw and Lohit and in Upper Siang. An earlier survey by the New Delhi-based Institute of Narcotics Studies and Analysis said every family in 90% of the villages in Anjaw and 63% of villages in Lohit district was cultivating opium.

Security agencies say members of the extremist groups either fund or are directly involved in the opium cultivation and trade to sustain their subversive activities.

Chopper scan

Extremists of all shades have used the hilly, densely forested terrain of the TCL region as a corridor to and from safe havens in adjoining Myanmar. Of the factions, the NSCN (IM) has been enjoying the upper hand in this region because of pressure on the Khaplang group from both the Indian and Myanmar armed forces.

“Our informers said 14-15 people ambushed the MLA and escaped into the jungles. We have been using helicopters to scan the routes the assailants might have taken,” an Army officer said on condition of anonymity.

“There are no arrests yet, but with reinforcement and help of the armed forces we hope to have a breakthrough soon,” Mr. Garg said.

Though officials said other factions could be behind Tuesday’s killing, the needle of suspicion is more on NSCN (IM) because of its alleged push for including the TCL region within Greater Nagalim, envisaged to bring all Naga-inhabited areas of the northeast under one administrative umbrella.

Four communities — Nocte, Tangsa, Tutsa, and Wancho — that were clubbed as “other Naga tribes” in the Scheduled Tribe list were said to be the primary reason behind the NSCN (IM)’s bid to control the TCL region. Arunachal Pradesh has been resisting this bid.

In 2018, the Centre changed the “other Naga tribes” to name the four communities individually. Mr Aboh belonged to the Nocte community.


Mr. Aboh’s 20-year-old son Longgem was driving the SUV that they had bought from a showroom in Assam on Monday. He had come down from Bengaluru, where he was studying, for his summer vacation.

A leader of the NPP’s State unit said the MLA and members of his family had been receiving threat calls. “FIRs were filed at the local police station but there was no action although some sort of security was provided,” he said, adding that the attack on Mr. Aboh could have been “politically motivated”.

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