Thursday, December 8, 2011

Indian journalists go missing in Burma after interview with rebels


Thursday, 08 December 2011 21:24 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Two Indian journalists have gone missing in Burma, according to the Journalists’ Forum of Assam (JFA), which has asked Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to help trace their whereabouts.

A letter on Thursday told Indian authorities that the two journalists had not returned to Assam. It is unclear if the journalists are being detained.

On Sunday, however, one media report said the two journalists, along with leader No. 2 of the ULFA rebel group, Jivan Moran, had been detained in Burma. It said the journalists were released, but their laptop, camera and cell phones were seized.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Photo: Mizzima

Burmese authorities on Wednesday denied that Jivan Moran was arrested.

Shambu Singh, a joint secretary in the Indian Home Ministry, said,  “Burmese authorities have conveyed to the Ministry of External Affairs information about the arrest of two Indian journalists on the Sino-Burmese border, but it said there has been no arrest of any person by the name of Jivan Moran.”

The JFA letter said: “No information is available to their family about their whereabouts. So we would like to make a formal request for you to take a personal interest in this matter.” The Indian prime minister is also an Upper House MP from Assam.

The two journalists were supposed to arrive in Moreh in on the Indo-Burmese border on Sunday evening, but they failed to appear.

In mid-October, Rajib Bhattacharya, who works for a newly launched English daily, the “Seven Sister's Post” based in Guwahati, and photojournalist Pradip Gogoi, went inside Burma to conduct an interview with Paresh Baruah, the No. 1 leader of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), their publication’s editor, Subir Bhaumik, said in a television interview. He said he has had no contact with the two journalists since then.

“It was his [Rajib Bhattacharya’s] project, and he was determined to take the assignment,” Subir Bhaumik said.

Rajib’s wife, Rashmi Sharma, also a journalist, said in a television interview that she received an SMS from her husband a few weeks ago, and he said that he was fine and waiting for the interview.

Indian intelligence sources have said that ULFA leader Barua operates in an area between Sichuan Province in China and Kachin State in Burma.

Although  Bhattacharya has not returned home, a special article by him, “Myanmar: main base for NE rebels” was published in  Seven Sisters Post on Sunday. It was unclear when or how the publication received the article.

Nine Indian rebel groups take shelter in Burmese territory. The groups have a total of 64 military bases, according to intelligence sources.

“Some are warehouses to supply material to larger military bases…,” said a senior official from the Indian government.

The 64 bases do not include bases set up by Manipur rebels in the Taka area in Sagaing Region. According to Indian intelligent sources, there are also ULFA military bases near the Chindwin River in the border area in Kachin State.

The Indian government frequently asks the Burmese government to suppress Indian rebel bases, but with little results.

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