Manipur government statement in court on recovery of stolen weapons does not add up

Information provided in the Supreme Court contradicts the figures earlier announced by the Manipur Chief Minister and other officials

August 05, 2023 09:55 pm | Updated August 06, 2023 07:28 am IST

A building is in flames in Thoubal district of Manipur on July 4, 2023 following clashes between security personnel and rioters after a mob allegedly attempted to loot weapons from an India Reserve Battalion located in Khangabok.

A building is in flames in Thoubal district of Manipur on July 4, 2023 following clashes between security personnel and rioters after a mob allegedly attempted to loot weapons from an India Reserve Battalion located in Khangabok. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Manipur government informed the Supreme Court last week that 197 “stolen arms”, along with 70 bombs and 2,196 rounds of ammunition have been recovered in combing operations so far.

While 121 arms, 40 bombs and 2,092 ammunition were recovered from the Valley, 76 arms, 30 bombs and 104 rounds of ammunition were seized from the Hill areas, a status report filed by the State government in the apex court on August 1 said.

The number of recoveries submitted before the court contradicts the earlier claims made by government officials and Chief Minister N. Biren Singh.

On July 20, Mr. Singh had told The Hindu that around 1,600 weapons that were looted from police armouries since May 3, have been recovered.

On June 13, a press note by Kuldiep Singh, Security Adviser, Manipur government, said that “a total of 1,040 arms, 13,601 ammunition and 230 bombs have bee recovered till date”.

On June 24, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told an all-party meeting that 1,800 looted weapons have been returned.

The recoveries were mentioned as part of an action taken report in response to a petition filed by Zomi Students Federation. A court order on July 11 had asked the State to submit an updated report within a period of weeks.

The petitioner had asked that “a status report be called for on the number of arms looted from the police armories, the number of such arms recovered and the measures being undertaken for recovery of the remaining arms”.

Without furnishing the records of the total number of looted police weapons, the State government submitted that “measures are being undertaken for recovery of stolen arms/ammunitions.” “It is submitted that area sanitisation activities and combing operations have been undertaken by the security forces (State Police, Assam Rifles, Army and CAPF).”

It further added that 124 companies of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), 185 columns of Assam Rifles and the army are deployed in addition to the State Police. Presently, about 36,000 personnel of central security forces are deployed in the State of Manipur.

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The report added that “no particular community” can be attributed with the “sole responsibility for the damages caused in the aftermath of the series of incidents that had occurred in the previous months in the State of Manipur”. It said that a “march” conducted on May 3 was “overtaken by the armed miscreants in the area and the incidents followed thereafter”.

It said that “illegal bunkers constructed by miscreants, which have been a cause of concern for the society in both hills and valley are being dismantled by the security forces”.

Till July 24, as many as 241 bunkers were destroyed by security forces. The maximum number of bunkers — 81 — were destroyed in Kangpokpi district, followed by 36 in Imphal West, 34 in Imphal East, 47 in Bishnupur, 21 in Chandel, five in Churanchandpur among others. The bunkers, varying from sandbags to tin boards, were set up by the Kuki and Meitei communities in foothills or areas where their settlements are adjacent to each other.

At the start of the ethnic violence, as many as 761 State police personnel abandoned their posts or were absent from duty. As of June 19, 687 personnel had reported back to work but 74 were still absent.

Also read | Armoury looted, policeman killed in separate incidents in Manipur 

The report said that other than the 150 killed in violence till July 25, there were 677 persons who were injured in the violence and 27 persons are missing and 24 people have been abducted.

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