It was born the year before the ULFA in Assam. In September 1978, a handful of Manipuri youths led by N Biseshwar Singh travelled to China through Myanmar, got indoctrinated into Chinese communism and returned to form the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a name borrowed directly from China.
Over three decades later, the PLA has not only regrouped — the Army crushed it in the 1980s — but also emerged a key player in training and supplying weapons to Maoists.
“Once, the PLA used to get training and arms from the NSCN. Now the PLA is providing such services to Maoists, who have an MoU with the PLA,” said an official engaged in operations to break the nexus.
The PLA and Maoists signed their MoU on October 22, 2008, assuring Maoists PLA trainers for camps in Jharkhand and allowing batches to be sent to the PLA’s base in Myanmar for joint training with the Manipuri rebels.
Security forces including the Army have for long been deployed in the Northeast but it is only recently that the thriving nexus has come to notice. “Look at the number of PLA members arrested in the past few years. In Guwahati alone, at least a dozen top leaders have been arrested, even before the PLA-Maoist nexus became a talking point,” said a senior NIA official.
The latest sign of the nexus came this weekend with the arrest of Pallab Borbora alias Profull, said to be the Maoists’ chief coordinator in Assam and a key link with the PLA. Two key arrests by the National Investigation Agency are those of N Dilip Singh alias Wangba, “chief of the external affairs department” of the PLA, and Indranil Chanda alias Raj, 37, said to be an arms trafficker and responsible for expanding the Maoist base in Assam. Through Raj and Profull, investigators say, Wangba had met slain Naxal leader Kishenji on the Jharkhand-Orissa border. Wangba trained Naxals for two months in guerrilla warfare tactics and communication, besides providing wireless sets and arms, one of the NIA chargesheets said.
The NIA has found over 500 e-mails exchanged between the PLA and Maoists and one of these from the former congratulates the “comrades” for the “military offensive” against security forces in Dandakaranya, Chhattisgarh, a reference to the attack of April 6, 2010. The same day, Maoist leader Ganapathy sent Wangba a mail thanking the PLA for its support in helping turn the guerrilla battle into a “mighty war”, the chargesheet said.
Other major Maoist names the NIA has been mentioning include Prasanta Bose, better known as Kishenda. The NIA claims he led a Maoist delegation to PLA camp in Myanmar four years ago and attended the outfit’s general congress.
Beyond the PLA
Officers probing Maoist connections in the Northeast also cite inputs about links with the ULFA, NSCN(IM) and the United National Liberation Front of Manipur. Such has the Maoists’ influence been that a Manipur-based outfit, Kangleipak Communist Party, has renamed itself Maoist Communist Party of Manipur.
One concern in Assam has been about the reported disappearance of over 300 youths in the past two or three years. “Some top Maoist leaders have been meeting various groups of people across Assam in the past two years or so,” said an officer, fearing the youths may have been indoctrinated into Maoist ideology.
NIA director-general S C Sinha last week asked Assam Police D-G J N Choudhury to send some of his officers on deputation to his organisation.