Manipur Northeast

Manipur-based Zeliangrong leader found shot dead, NSCN-IM involvement suspected

A former leader of the Zeliangrong community, a Naga tribe that also has a considerable population in Manipur was found dead on Wednesday evening after being abducted for over 24 hours alleged by his son, by the Isak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).

This comes at a time when the Naga Peace process based on the Framework Agreement with the NSCN-IM, that has been in ceasefire agreement with the Centre since 1997, is closing in.

Athua Abonmai, who had presided Zeliangrong Baudi (ZB) was found dead with gun shot injuries at a stone crushing unit near Palong village and Lalamba village between Tamei and Tamenglong district headquarters in the evening.

According to his son’s FIR, that was filed at Lamphel police station by Arai Abonmai, his father had left his home located at Langol Tarung, Garce Colony on September 22 (Wednesday) to attend the community outreach programme of the Government to bring equal development in both the hills and valley. The programme was held at Tamenglong polo ground.

Athuan’s body is scheduled to be brought back home by Thursday afternoon.

Eye witnesses claim that Abonmai was abducted by about 20 miscreants who they suspect were cadres of the NSCN-IM from the gate of the ground where the outreach programme “Go to Hills 2.0” was held.

Tamenglong police had launched a massive operation to rescue him, but he was found dead the same evening.

For the crucial role that Athuan played in maintaining the brotherhood among the Zeliangrong community in both Manipur and Nagaland while maintaining parlays with the Manipur government, his abduction had raised concerns of the Union Home Affairs department too, a government source claimed.

Athuan, who was found closely working with the Manipur government to better the lives of Zeliangrong people living in Manipur had come in the bad books of a section of NSCN-IM, as its demand for Greater Nagalim also includes the Naga populated chunks from Manipur besides Assam, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

Though in ceasefire at Nagaland, intelligence sources revealed that operatives of the outfit has been active in Manipur and south eastern Arunachal Pradesh. The outfit had an animosity with the Manipur government and its CM N Biren Singh who had at several instances denied to participate in the Naga peace talks due to “border-related differences”.

The Joint Tribes Council had earlier urged whoever is responsible for abducting Athuan to release him “safely at the earliest on humanitarian grounds”.

In a statement, JTC said earlier that it has learnt that some unknown persons had reportedly abducted Athuan Abonmai from Tamenglong and urged the responsible people to release him at the earliest.

Manipur CM Biren Singh, on the other hand, had instructed the police to conduct a speedy investigation into Athuans death, a source in the CM office said.

“CM has also asked the police to mobilise more forces to Lamphel and the Tamenglong district as a whole,” the source said.

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