BY Ratnadip Choudhury
There is strong opinion in Manipur that way back in 1949 the then Maharaja of Manipur Bodhachandra was forced to sign the Merger Agreement with India under duress. The oldest outfit of the state The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) had claimed that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was trying to write the same script for another royal descendent – Raj Kumar Meghen, the Chairman of the outfit – forcing him to the negotiation table.
Tehelka had last week (4 December, Prince Meghen has gone missing. Is the royal rebel a pawn in Delhi’s cunning plan?) published a detailed story on how Meghen was picked up in a joint operation of Indian and Bangladeshi intelligence sleuths inside Bangladesh. Later he was flown to New Delhi, kept in a National Investigative Agency (NIA) ‘safe house’ in Mehrauli area of the national capital and was persuaded to accept that he has ‘surrendered’ and that he wants to come for ‘negotiation’. The Home Ministry never denied the Tehelka story and has finally admitted that the top rebel leader has indeed been arrested. The plan of MHA, the blatant denials of Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai on ‘Meghen’s arrest’ have fallen flat. Once again, Tehelka’s persistence in unearthing the whole truth has paid off. Finally, the constant protests on the streets of Imphal against North Block’s designs have not been in vain.
The ‘face-saving’ admission from New Delhi had its share of drama. The Centre claims that Meghen was picked up from Chhattauni village in Motihari district, Bihar by a team of the NIA while trying to cross into India from Nepal. Manipur Police has also confirmed the arrest. “Pressure was building up on the ministry and after the Tehelka story there was no other option left because Meghen was unmoved, he did not agree to any proposal,” says a very reliable source in MHA.
Tehelka’s painstaking follow-up of the mysterious arrest in Bangladesh, first reported by the BBC, not only pinpointed NIA’s involvement but also explained the entire ‘modus operandi’ scripted under Pillai’s supervision. The story is said to have created huge ripples in the corridors of power. Finally, New Delhi has officially owned up to Meghen’s arrest. He has been produced in a court in Motihari in Bihar’s East Champaran district and remanded to police custody for three days at the time of the filing of this report.
“The story stands vindicated. We were pretty sure that he was picked up in Dhaka. That’s why we released the story. This whole cover-up has fallen apart now after your (Tehelka) follow-up on our break.” This is how BBC Correspondent Subir Bhaumik who first broke the news of Meghen’s arrest reacted.
MHA also tried to convince Dhaka for a possible secret ‘push back’ so that he can be shown arrested inside Bangladesh but this time Dhaka denied help. “We have helped India on a platter, but they have once again mismanaged the issue and we did not want to be dragged into this further since the international community is watching” says a senior Intelligence officer from Dhaka.
Bihar Police sources have confirmed TEHELKA that The NIA had asked us help to produce Meghen in court. Meanwhile his family members are a relaxed lot.
“At last we got to hear about him. Hopefully, we can now organise legal support for him” said Meghen’s son Mei Chinglen.
After the Tehelka story hit the stands, Amnesty International had also voiced its concern. New Delhi considers Meghen as a ‘big catch’ and the fact that it will now try to keep Meghen away from Manipur is anyone’s guess.