Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force in the country, has slapped a legal notice against a Manipur politician for causing “considerable harm to the reputation and standing of the organisation in the public eye.” It said the notice is being served for tarnishing the reputation and “discouraging and demoralising” the Central armed police force.
The legal notice was served on Maheshwar Thounaojam, national secretary of the Republican Party of India (RPI-Athawale) on August 18.
Assam Rifles sought a “written” and “public” apology for the false allegation and defamation asking him to retract the statement he made at ‘Condolence of Meitei Martyrs’ in Delhi on June 30.
The notice mentioned that at the meet, Mr. Thounaojam had said, “The villagers also reported that the Assam Rifles has been helping the Kuki militants in order to burn down the village defence force. That means the Assam Rifles has to be removed immediately from Manipur.”
The notice said that the Assam Rifles has been diligently serving the nation, playing a crucial role in ensuring peace, security, and development in various regions, including Manipur.
My client has selflessly dedicated itself to “protecting the citizens and upholding the integrity” of our nation especially the northeastern States. “It is also pertinent to mention that although the State of Manipur is not a notified area under AFSPA [Armed Force Special Powers Act], the competent Magistrate had specifically issued requisitions dated May 3 and May 5, for the armed forces to be deployed there for aiding in maintenance of law and order,” the notice said.
Mr. Thounaojam however told The Hindu that he will not apologise and he was entitled to free speech in a democratic country like India.
“I did not make a statement, it was a question that I asked. I did not speak as a politician, but as a Meitei. Every Meitei here knows how some Assam Rifles officials dance and sing with Kuki militants, there are videos to prove this. I was merely reiterating something which is known to all Meitei people here,” Mr. Thounaojam said.
“Is Assam Rifles playing a major role in the violence that has continued for more than two months now? They have to be removed immediately because Kuki militants cannot alone unleash violence at such a large scale. They are getting support from foreign militants and one of our agencies here. Villagers have recorded this,” the legal notice quoting his statement said.
Earlier, the Assam Rifles had registered a criminal case against COCOMI, an influential Meitei civil society organisation on July 10 after the outfit gave a call to people “not to surrender weapons”. More than 4,000 weapons have been looted from police armouries since May 3 when ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei people erupted in Manipur. The Meitei group and BJP legislators have demanded removal of AR from Manipur accusing it of partisan conduct.
AR is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) while the operational control is with the Army. It is primarily deployed along the Myanmar border with presence in the interior areas of Manipur.