Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rogue Agent betrayed Burmese rebels

By Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima)- India's leading Human Rights lawyer Nandita Haksar said there are more political motives than legal reasons for India to have detained 34 Burmese rebels, who are currently lodged in Kolkata's Presidency jail. They have been in Indian jails for the past 11 years.

Haksar, who have been advocating the case of the Burmese rebels, said, "I have tried to explore the politics of this case, I don't think that they are in jail for legal reasons but for political reasons."

Haksar's comment came in a form of a book, titled 'Rogue Agent', which details the case of the 34 Burmese rebels and the politics behind their arrest and accusations of India's betrayal to the rebels.

Speaking after the formal release of her book by Burmese exiled Member of Parliament, Dr. Tint Swe, Haksar said an Indian military intelligence officer had played a vital role in betraying the Burmese rebels, who were arrested by Indian authorities in February 11, 1998 at Landfall Island of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

"It is India's military intelligence officer, who betrayed the Burmese freedom fighters," said Haksar adding that the rebels on Wednesday completed 11 years in detention without proper trial.

Gathered at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar Park near the Parliament, at least a hundred Burmese pro-democracy activists on Wednesday staged a protest demanding India provide a fair trial to the Burmese rebels and release them immediately.

Leech Operation
The rebels, belonging to Burma's Arakan and Karen ethnics, said they were betrayed by Indian Military Intelligence, who promised them a base at Landfall Island in Andaman and Nicobar.

According to the rebels, six of their key leaders were killed brutally by Indian Military Intelligence upon arriving at the landfall and the rest were arrested.

The Indian defence ministry later claimed that a huge consignment of arms and ammunition were seized during a joint operation codenamed 'Operation Leech' and charged the rebels with gun running.

The rebels were then kept at Port Blair without trial for eight years. But later in 2006 October, the Supreme Court of India, after the rebels' petition, ordered the rebels to be transferred to Kolkata and to conduct a day-to-day trial.

The Rogue Agent
Haksar, who has tirelessly followed the case of the 34 rebels, in her book – 'Rogue Agent' – reveals that an Indian Military Intelligence officer named Lt. Col V.S. Grewal as the man masterminding the plot to betray the Burmese rebels.

According to her Grewal had negotiated with the rebels, mainly the Arakanese resistant group, to allow them a base in an Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands in return for monitoring Chinese naval bases in Coco Island.

But Grewal, who also had good relationship with the Burmese military regime, betrayed the rebels on their arrival at the Landfall Island and killed six of their leaders in cold blood and arrested the others.

According to the book, Lt. Col V. S Grewal, who is a resident of Chandigarh, is being spotted in Rangoon and is enjoying the military government's favour after the operation against the rebels.

Haksar, however, said with the Indian military establishment turning down requests to allow access to Grewal, he cannot be working alone in his plot to betray the Burmese rebels.

"If Grewal had been working alone why would the Indian Army want to protect him? Would it not be better to hand him over and put the blame on one rogue agent rather than get into this long-drawn controversy?" Haksar asked in her book.

Haksar in her book also details how India had switched its stand on Burma and abandoned its support to Burmese pro-democracy movement under its claimed 'National Interest'.

The Rebels
The 34 Burmese rebels, who are now on a trial in a court in Kolkata, reportedly went into a hunger strike on Wednesday to protest against 11 years of detention.

The trial, according to one of their lawyers Akshay Kumar Sharma, is nearing a close as the prosecution has several times failed to produce key witnesses as demanded by the court.

But with their case drawing to a close, the lawyer said the rebels will need a refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or will likely be continued to be detained or face deportation to Burma under India's Foreigners Act.

Earlier the Czech Republic and East Timor has in principle agreed to accept them in their country but that would still require the UNHCR's recommendation.

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