A former leader of the Zeliangrong community, a Naga tribe that also has a sizable population in Manipur, was found dead on Wednesday after being kidnapped for more than 24 hours allegedly by the Isak-Muivah faction of the Nagaland National Socialist Council (NSCN -IM).
This comes at a time when the Naga peace process based on the framework agreement with the NSCN-IM, which has been in a ceasefire agreement with the center since 1997, is drawing closer.
Athuan Abonmai, who had chaired Zeliangrong Baudi (ZB), the supreme organ of the Zeliangrong community, was found dead with gunshot wounds in a stone crushing unit.
According to the FIR of son, Arai Abonmai, his father left home on September 22 to participate in a government community outreach program aimed at bringing equal development to both the hills and the valley. The program took place at the Tamenglong polo field.
Athuan’s body is expected to be brought home on Thursday afternoon.
Eyewitnesses claim that Abonmai was abducted by around 20 people, whom they suspect to be NSCN-IM cadres, at the gate to the grounds where the outreach program was taking place.
Police had launched a massive operation to rescue him, but he was found dead the same evening.
For the crucial role played by Athuan in maintaining stability within the Zeliangrong community in Manipur and Nagaland, while keeping in touch with the government in Manipur, his kidnapping had raised concerns, a government source said.
Athuan, who was found to work closely with the government of Manipur to improve the lives of the Zeliangrong living in Manipur, had deteriorated ties with a section of NSCN-IM, as his demand for Greater Nagalim also includes the populated pieces of Naga. of Manipur in addition to Assam, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
Although in the ceasefire in Nagaland, intelligence sources said the outfit was active in Manipur and southeastern Arunachal Pradesh.
The Joint Tribal Council had previously asked the person responsible for Athuan’s kidnapping to release him “safely at the earliest for humanitarian reasons.”
The Chief Minister of Manipur, Biren Singh, had asked the police to conduct a swift investigation into Athuan’s death. “The chief minister also called on the police to mobilize more forces throughout Lamphel and Tamenglong district,” the source said.