Mizoram has clearly emerged as the main arms trafficking route to and from Northeast India after BSF seized a huge consignment of weapons on Monday.

This is cause for worry for all three countries – India, Myanmar and Bangladesh because easy availability of weapons sustains insurgencies in this sensitive border region.

BSF said they nabbed three Mizos from Phuldungsei on Tripura-Mizoram international border with Bangladesh on Monday and seized a huge number of illegal arms and ammunitions.

This is easily one of the biggest arms seizures in Mizoram and rest of the North-Eastern region in recent years.

The three Mizos are perhaps part of an international arms smuggling racket, the BSF said in a statement released recently.

Also read: BSF seizes huge cache of arms and ammunition from Indo-Bangla border, nabs 3

The BSF acted on a specific input from its ‘G’ Branch and Military Intelligence about a big consignment of weapons moving from Tripura to Mizoram’s Phuldungsei area.

Phuldungsei village, on the Tripura-Mizoram border, is the last village of Yripura.

BSF patrols launched a special operation on the outskirts of Phuldungsei and laid a trap that led to interception of two vehicles bearing Mizoram number plates.

“On searching the vehicles, the Border Security Force recovered 30 sophisticated weapons, including 28 AK-Series Rifles, one 5.56 MM AK-74 Rifle and one Carbine, along with 7,894 assorted ammunitions. An amount of Rs 39,020 and other articles were also recovered from the apprehended persons,” the BSF said in a statement.

Three persons, identified as Lalhuapzauva, Vanlalruata and Liansanga – all residents of Mizoram’s capital Aizawl – have been arrested.

Mizoram home minister Lalchamliana on Tuesday said more than 600 firearms have been seized in Mizoram between 2004 and 2020.

In reply to a written question from Lalrindika Ralte of Congress in the State Assembly, Lalchamliana said the firearms were smuggled into the state mostly from neighbouring Myanmar.

Moreover, 32 persons have also been arrested for possessing illegal firms during the period from 2004 to 2020.

Among the 32 persons, 12 are from Myanmar, Lalchamliana added.

He also said eight persons have been convicted and the remaining twenty four persons are under trial.

The seized firearms include 134 AK-47 rifles, eight AK-56 rifles and 26 light machine guns.

A total of 47,510 live rounds and 314 magazines were also seized during the period, Lalchamliana said.

He also said 91 firearms have been seized during 2011-12 while 23 were seized during 2018-19 and 27 were seized during 2019-20.

It may be mentioned that in May 2018, the DRI, in a joint operation with Assam Rifles, had unearthed a major racket involving smuggling of firearms in Mizoram.

They supply arms to different insurgent outfits in northeast India and even Bangladesh.

The network is closely linked with the gun runners of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Myanmar.

While drugs, gold, betel nuts and guns are smuggled in through Mizoram, the peaceful state of Northeast is also used as a corridor to smuggle huge consignments of fertilizers to Myanmar.

Smugglers are operating in Assam and Mizoram tranship huge consignments of subsidised fertilisers (meant for poor farmers) for production of ecstasy drugs in Myanmar.

Lots of Chinese-made weapons are reaching Bangladesh through Mizoram, a senior Intelligence official in Dhaka has said.

He said the weapons originate with the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in northeastern Myanmar.

This rebel outfit, the biggest armed non-state actor in Myanmar since the Burmese Communist Party withered away, is known to manufacture Chinese design weapons under some kind of informal franchise.

Northeast rebel groups like the ULFA and NSCN are known to be sourcing their weapons from the UWSA.

But weapons seizures in Mizoram in recent years have worried Bangladesh intelligence which feels that since Mizoram was a peaceful state, these weapons were meant for Bangladesh.

Some recent seizures of automatic weapons in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts have reinforced this feeling.

“On questioning suspects arrested during these weapons seizures in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, we have found these consignments came through Mizoram after originating in Myanmar,” said a senior Bangladesh intelligence official. But he was unwilling to be named.

In March 2013, the Assam Rifles seized 33 AK-47 rifles, a combat browning automatic rifle, a 5.56 automatic light machine gun, 49 loaded magazines and 809 rounds of ammunition from the outskirts of Aizawl.

Five people, including three Bangladeshis and two Mizoram residents, were arrested in connection with the recovery near Lengpui airport in Mizoram.

According to Mizoram Police and intelligence officials, the weapons were being smuggled to Bangladesh.

Since then, the Assam Rifles and Mizoram police have frequently seized weapons and invariably found a ‘CHT connection’.

With the December 30 parliament polls round the corner and threat of violence looming large, Bangladesh intelligence is keen that the Mizoram corridor is plugged by Indian forces to prevent weapons from slipping into their country.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. He can be reached at: sbhaum@gmail.com