Peoples United Liberation Front
A communal clash between the dominant Meiteis and the Pangals (Muslims) on May 3, 1993 over monetary transaction in the Lilong Bazaar area of Thoubal district led to approximately 150 deaths in the Thoubal and Imphal districts. Subsequently, discontented members of the minority Muslim community formed a number of Islamist militant outfits. People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), founded in 1993, was one of them.
On May 30, 2007, another Islamist outfit operating in Manipur, the Islamic National Front, INF, merged with the PULF. The INF chairman, Mohammed Raffisuddin, and several of his fellow cadres formally joined the PULF. The INF was established in the 1980s’ and its cadres were reportedly trained by the Kuki National Front (KNF) in the Churachandpur district. Addressing a joint press meet with the PULF leadership in an unknown location in the Imphal East district, Raffisuddin said that there was no point in the various outfits pursuing their struggle in a disjointed manner.
Besides seeking to safeguard the interests of the minority Muslim community in Manipur, PULF’s purported objective is to secure an Islamic country in India’s northeast through an armed struggle in collaboration with other Islamist fundamentalist groups.
The outfit also envisions a society based on ‘Islamist values’ and to this end, has ‘acted’ against the prevalence of substance abuse and alcoholism among Muslims in the State. It has also passed diktats on the dress code for Muslim girls in the State.
Leadership and Cadre
Bashir Laskar alias Muthi alias Moti was the ‘commander in chief’ of the outfit before his death in an encounter with the Assam Rifles personnel at Kakmayai under Yairipok police station limits in the Thoubal district on May 11, 2006. In the same encounter, the outfit’s ‘deputy home secretary’ Mohammad Shafi alias Rami, too, was killed.
Since then, the outfit is led by its general secretary, Kaji Ibrahim. Former INF chairman Raffisuddin is its home secretary. Mohammed Belan Khan functions as its 'finance secretary' and Mustaffa as the ‘deputy finance secretary’. Seikh Sahid Ahmed is the outfit's ‘publicity secretary’, while A.E. Quresh is the 'assistant publicity secretary'.
Apart from drawing its cadres from the Muslim community in Manipur, PULF also has recruits from the Muslim community in Assam. For instance, on July 22, 1999, the Assam Police in Barpeta district arrested four PULF militants, Mohammed Saifu Islam, Mohammed Akbar Ali, Zehirul Islam and Hazarat Ali, belonging to the Howly area of Barpeta district. They had reportedly joined the outfit in 1997. Their interrogation revealed that the outfit also has cadres from the Nagaon and Lakhimpur districts of Assam.
Total cadre strength of the outfit is known to be less than 100. However, following INF’s merger, the cadre strength is projected to have gone up by another 50 cadres.
PULF has faced dissensions since the beginning of year 2007. At least one group led by Azad is involved in narcotics trafficking and the PULF leadership reportedly exercises little control over it.
Areas of Operation
PULF currently operates in several areas of the valley districts and Moreh in the hill district of Chandel in Manipur. Lilong in the Thoubal district is reportedly its stronghold. Following INF’s merger with the outfit, the outfit’s influence is projected to expand to pockets of Churachandpur district as well.
Till 1999, it reportedly maintained units in three districts of Assam: Barpeta, Nagaon and Lakhimpur. Incidents involving the outfit have also been reported from the Barak valley area of Assam.
Arms and Training
PULF was in possession of rusty and locally-made weapons in its formative years. However, the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), which trained its cadres mostly in the Ukhrul district and also in Myanmar, is reported to have provided the outfit with sophisticated weapons. The outfit now possesses an unspecified number of AK-series rifles, stenguns, carbines, though most of its attacks involve the use of explosives, hand grenades and gelatin sticks.
Extortion targeting the civilian population and traders in its areas of operation constitute the major source of funding for the PULF. Further, the outfit is known to have indulged in the smuggling of arms and explosives for money. For instance, on April 21, 2005, four Mizo youths were arrested at Behara railway station in Cachar district of Assam along with packets of detonators, eight packets of gelatine sticks and 400 packets of the explosive rolls. The youths were being used by the PULF as carriers. On April 18, 2005, another Mizo youth was arrested along with 294 gelatin sticks from the Cachar Express train near Silchar in Assam.
PULF maintained close links with the NSCN-IM for arms and training in its formative years. The extent of its linkages with the outfit at present is not known.
According to official sources, the PULF is known to have linkages with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan as well as other Islamist outfits operating in India’s Northeast.
Source:Compiled from news reports and are provisional.