The Meitei and Kuki MLAs of Manipur have written separate letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made conflicting demands over the presence of Assam Rifles in the ethnic strife-affected state.
While 40 legislators, most of whom are Meiteis, sought removal of the country's oldest para-military force from the northeastern state, 10 Kuki MLAs urged Modi not to do so asserting this could jeopardise the security of the tribals.
Assam Rifles and other central forces including the Army were deployed in Manipur in early May to control the situation after clashes between Meiteis and Kukis broke out.
In a memorandum to the PM, the 40 legislators said Assam Rifles need to be transferred from their present location of deployment and "trustworthy Central forces" along with state security can replace them to "neutralise and sanitise" all threats to peace, security and stability.
They also said, "For the immediate establishment of security, simple deployment of forces is inadequate. Although it is imperative to halt the violence in the peripheral areas, a complete disarmament is the key to achieve this goal.”
These MLAs also demanded the withdrawal of the suspension of operations agreement with Kuki militant groups, implementation of NRC in the state and strengthening of the Autonomous District Councils.
In the memorandum submitted to Modi on Wednesday, they opposed the demand for a 'separate administration' by Kuki groups.
"There has been large-scale foreign infiltration with arms and ammunition into the state. So, the Central forces should proactively engage with them. There has been a non-stop conflict between the State/Central forces and these insurgent armed groups In the state for the last 3 months," the memorandum said.
On August 8, the Manipur unit of the BJP also requested Modi to replace Assam Rifles with any other paramilitary force “permanently from the state in the interest of the public".
In another memorandum to the prime minister on Thursday, the Kuki-Zo-Hmar MLAs asserted that the Assam Rifles stood the test of time and did their work without prejudice or bias in Manipur.
“On behalf of all Tribal communities, we the elected Tribal representatives (MLAs) humbly pray to you not to remove the Assam Rifles from our state as it would harm and jeopardise our safety and security.
“At the same time, we humbly pray you to control the state forces, curtail their powers and give direction to not violate the Buffer Zones manned by the Central Paramilitary aces for restoration of peace in the state, in public interest,” the memorandum read.
The tribal MLAs also described as a “worrisome trend” that the Manipur Police have started removing Assam Rifles posts from key areas and lodging “false and fabricated” FIRs against the paramilitary force to hinder them from doing their duties.
Manipur Police registered an FIR on August 5 accusing the Assam Rifles of blocking their vehicle after an altercation between the two forces on the Kwakta Gothol road in Bishnupur district.
The Assam Rifles is being “falsely blamed by Meiteis” as they safeguard humanity, are compassionate yet firm in handling tense situations and are unbiased, the tribal legislators claimed.
Earlier, all 10 Kuki MLAs in the state cutting across party lines wrote to the Centre, seeking a separate administration for Kuki areas.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Congress Legislators Party in Manipur and former chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has demanded an emergency session of the Assembly to find a way to end the ethnic strife in the state.
"The proposed emergency session should discuss the crisis unfolding in the state and adopt a unanimous resolution to end the strife," Ibobi told reporters on Wednesday.
During a recent cabinet meeting called by Chief Minister N Biren Singh, it was resolved to recommend to the Governor to convene the Assembly session on August 21.
The ethnic clashes broke out in the northeastern state on May 3, after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals - Nagas and Kukis - constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.