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Rediff.com  » News » Why Meiteis Want Assam Rifles Replaced In Manipur

Why Meiteis Want Assam Rifles Replaced In Manipur

By PRASANNA D ZORE
July 13, 2023 08:51 IST
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'The Assam Rifles are supporting the Kuki-narco terrorists.'

IMAGE: Indian Army and Assam Rifles personnel rescue civilians from violence-hit areas in Manipur. Photograph: PTI Photo from Rediff.com archives
 

In its status report submitted to the Supreme Court on July 11, the Manipur government stated that 142 people have been killed between May 3, when violence first broke out in the north eastern state over the demand for including the Meiteis as a Scheduled Tribe, and July 4.

While the violence has somewhat abated in the last few days due to presence of Central Armed Police Forces -- as claimed by experts who have been watching the violence in the state -- as many as 31 MLAs mostly belonging to the Meitei community -- the majority community in the state that predominantly resides in the Imphal valley where maximum deaths have been reported as per the state government's status report to the apex court -- have, in their representation to Union Home Minister Amit A Shah, proposed the replacement of the 9th, 22nd and 37th units of the Assam Rifles.

A Meitei MLA, who is one of the 31 signatories to the letter that was sent to the Union home minister, confirmed to Rediff.com that the proposal for replacement of Assam Rifles is part of the letter that was sent to Shah.

"We have requested the home minister to remove Assam Rifles from Manipur. On Monday (July 10) evening a meeting was organised at the honourable chief minister's office after which it was decided to ask the home minister to remove the Assam Rifles from Manipur. We have sent a proposal which I have also signed, but I am not sure if the letter was submitted to the Union home minister or not," says the Meitei MLA.

Rediff.com spoke to three Manipur BJP MLAs -- one Kuki and two Meiteis -- separately to find out the reasons for the proposal of 31 MLAs seeking replacement of Assam Rifles.

Expectedly, the three MLAs belonging to the two ethnic groups gave divergent reasons for the proposal. All the MLAs spoke on the condition that their identities should not be revealed in this report.

"The Assam Rifles are supporting the Kuki-narco terrorists (the Kuki militants in Manipur who have allegedly moved from neighbouring Myanmar soon after violence erupted in the state on May 3)," says this MLA.

"The Suspension of Operation is signed between the Kuki militants, the Government of India and government of Manipur. But the Kuki militants violate the terms and conditions of the SoO and come out of their designated camps (from Myanmar as well as from Manipur) and indulge in firing on Meitei villagers in Kangpokpi, Bishnupur and Moirang side without any fear (of the Assam Rifles acting against the Kuki militants)," the MLA alleges.

A Kuki MLA begs to differ.

IMAGE: Kukis stage a rally in Churachandpur, May 30, 2023 to restore peace in Manipur during Union Home Minister Amit A Shah's visit. Photograph: ANI Photo

"Some of the radicals from groups like the Meitei Leepun, Arambai Tengol and some women groups like the Meira Paibis (Meitei women activists) are in the forefront of this demand," the Kuki MLA alleges.

"We shouldn't replace the Assam Rifles because they protect and safeguard lives of people both from both the sides (the Kukis and the Meiteis)," pleads the MLA.

"Common people from both sides trust the Assam Rifles and don't want these forces to leave Manipur," he adds.

According to him, a group of Kuki MLAs are likely to meet Shah on July 15 with a representation expressing their faith in the Assam Rifles in maintaining law and order in Manipur.

'Meitei radicals are running Manipur government'

IMAGE: Army personnel and Assam Rifles patrol the area to ensure protection to vehicles carrying essential goods from and to Imphal via NH 37 in violence-hit Manipur, May 22, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

While the Meitei MLAs' representation proposing the replacement of Assam Rifles is causing ripples in the state the worry around the rampant looting of sophisticated weapons by both sides and has been another bone of contention between the two ethnic groups at loggerheads with each other.

"Unless we initiate a sincere dialogue between the two communities, how will violence calm down? Unless we collect each and every weapon that was looted from police stations located in different parts of Manipur, how will violence subside?" asks another Meitei MLA, who says he did not know anything about the proposal to replace the Assam Rifles.

According to this lawmaker the people from both communities who have looted the arms and ammunition feel secure because these weapons give them the confidence and strength to protect their lives, families and properties.

"This (looting of arms) is happening because people feel that they have to protect themselves, their families and their villages. All the time, our people are asking where is the government; the government has to do everything (protect the lives and properties of people of Manipur) but instead of the government the people (of Manipur) have taken upon themselves to protect their life and property," he adds.

"That is the reason they are holding all the weapons they have looted. The state government has to collect all the weapons because it is the property of the state government. This may affect national security also. This is the situation in Manipur but we have to wait, we have to be patient," the MLA says.

"Till the time the chief minister supports the radical Meitei groups," says the Kuki MLA, "peace cannot return to Manipur."

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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