Drones used to monitor road blocks in Manipur

Pattern of people blocking roads to allow unidentified persons to sneak into villages has emerged, say forces; Army deploys more columns to traverse area on foot, says closely monitoring situation

June 23, 2023 10:32 pm | Updated June 24, 2023 09:03 am IST

Women protest over fresh violence at Kanto Sabal in Manipur’s Imphal West district.

Women protest over fresh violence at Kanto Sabal in Manipur’s Imphal West district. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Army said on June 23 that a large group of women who were part of a mob prevented the movement of additional personnel in areas bordering Kangpokpi and Imphal East districts in Manipur as “armed miscreants” opened fire at villages. Though no one was killed or injured in the incident, Army said a pattern had emerged in the past 20 days where armed miscreants sneak into villages and fire with automatic weapons while women protesters block roads, stopping the movement of security forces. 

A defence source said as a counter-strategy, Army too blocked roads at some distance to confine the mob and prevent miscreants from fleeing the area. 

Army’s Spear Corps tweeted that “in view of blocks by women-led crowd in Yaingangpokpi (YKPI), additional columns moved cross-country on foot to cordon the area”. 

It said that to maintain peace and after consulting the local leaders, “blocks (established to prevent movement of additional miscreants towards the area) were partially lifted to give safe passage to miscreants & mob to withdraw from area.” It said the situation is under control and being closely monitored.

The Army said it was using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to monitor the movement of the mob. It released a 57-second UAV video clip on Friday where scores of vehicles and people are seen blocking a road. 

A day ago, groups of women had blocked roads at six locations in the same area, which was followed by bursts of firing from automatic weapons directed at the hill villages. 

A source said that armed men posing as policemen entered empty villages on Friday noon and fired with “automatic weapons”.

The Army said in an earlier tweet that a “group of armed miscreants sneaked into the area from YKPI (Yaingangpokpi) towards hill side today afternoon. Miscreants firing automatic weapons towards villages of Urangpat & Gwaltabi. Security Forces Columns deployed in these vacant villages responding in calibrated manner to avoid any collateral damage. Large group of women part of mob in YKPI & Seijang area preventing movement of additional columns into the area.”

The Hindu reported on June 15 that women led-vigilante groups were blocking arterial roads in Manipur making the southern part of the State inaccessible to security forces since May 30.

To control the ethnic violence between the Meitei and the Kuki communities, buffer zones have been created between the valley where Meitei live and the hills where Kuki live, to stop any kind of clash or arson. 

On Saturday, Union Home Minister will chair an all-party meeting to discuss the Manipur crisis.

Before the meeting, Opposition parties reached out to people from Manipur seeking information regarding the ongoing violence.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien who has been nominated by West Bengal chief Mamata Banerjee to attend the meet, sent a message on Thursday to all communities in Manipur stating, “For a better understanding of the serious situation prevailing in Manipur, we are reaching out to all stakeholders. In that spirit, I am also reaching out to the clergy and the laity in the community.” He asked the people to share any information that is important to be raised at the meeting. 

Congress party has nominated former Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh for the meeting. The Congress party also met Kuki representatives on Friday to record their suggestions and inputs.

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