Apex Kuki tribes body calls for 12-hour shutdown in Manipur

The Kuki Inpi Manipur said that these arrests and detentions come even as Central and State forces were allegedly ‘turning a blind eye’ to the movement and activities of the Meitei militants and Arambai Tenggol in the Imphal area

Updated - July 10, 2024 02:00 am IST

Published - July 09, 2024 10:05 pm IST - New Delhi

A ‘village volunteer’ stands guard at a bunker set up in conflict-hit Manipur.

A ‘village volunteer’ stands guard at a bunker set up in conflict-hit Manipur. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), apex body of Kuki tribes in Manipur, on July 9 called for a 12-hour shutdown across all Kuki-Zo dominated districts of the State over the arrest of five purported village volunteers from their community by the security forces in the last two days, with some women’s groups of the Kuki-Zo community alleging that personnel of the security forces had beaten local women who were protesting the detention.

The latest of the arrests came early on Tuesday morning in Kangpokpi district, with the Manipur police stating that the three individuals arrested were “armed cadres of an underground outfit”, “involved in various criminal incidents of recent past”, who were later handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The police denied allegations levelled against the security forces about their conduct during the operations.

The Churachandpur-based Kuki Inpi Manipur, in a communication to its offices in all districts, said an emergency meeting was held over the arrest of these “village volunteers” and the conduct of personnel during the operations on Tuesday, following which the decision was taken to call for a “total shutdown” for 12 hours on Wednesday, July 10.

This came even as hundreds of Kuki-Zo people on Tuesday evening marched to the Superintendent of Police office in Kangpokpi district, calling for the release of the three individuals arrested from the L. Hengjol village in the early hours of Tuesday by the security forces who were acting on inputs from the NIA. The KIM and Kuki-Zo CSOs have claimed that these individuals were village volunteers and have demanded their release.

Officials of the KIM in Kangpokpi told The Hindu that the protesters intend to stay put at the SP office till the three individuals are brought back to the Kangpokpi district and “unconditionally released”.

Editorial |Walk the talk: On the Manipur crisis and reconciliation

Exchange of fire

In a statement put out on social media late Tuesday night, the Manipur police said joint security forces of the police and the CRPF were conducting operations in L. Hengjol village under the New Keithelmanbi police station acting on inputs from the NIA around 3.30 a.m. on Tuesday, when there was exchange of fire between the security forces and “armed militants”.

The three persons arrested were identified by the police as Thangjoel Haokip, Jangjoulen Khongsai, and Jangminlun Singson, with the police adding they also recovered two AK rifles, one MA-1 MK3 rifle, and one SBBL along with over 1,000 rounds of assorted ammunitions.

Police officials refused to identify which underground outfit the individuals belonged to, however, they said the accused and the seized arms and ammunitions had been “handed over to the NIA for necessary legal action”.

The KIM said these arrests and detentions come even as Central and State forces were allegedly “turning a blind eye” to the movement and activities of the Meitei militants and Arambai Tenggol in the Imphal area.

These recent arrests from security operations come two weeks after the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) held a massive rally in Imphal, raising the demand to “stop combing operations” in the valley areas as it believed such combing operations were purportedly not being conducted with equal measure in the hill districts.

In a press statement endorsing the shutdown call, the Sadar Hills office of the KIM in Kangpokpi district said, “All Kuki-Zo regional organisations are urged to strictly abide by this resolve to express solidarity for the common cause of our people – the fight against the unlawful oppression, subjugation, and persecution of our people and our legitimate demand for union territory with Legislature for the Kuki-Zo people.”

Rahul’s visit

On July 8, hours before Leader of the Opposition Rahul Gandhi were to visit Jiribam district, firing was reported in the district, following which tensions escalated and miscreants tried to torch a few unoccupied houses of people from both communities. In the combing operations conducted by the security forces as a response to the firing, two village volunteers were taken into custody along with a cache of locally and handmade arms, ammunition, and explosives.

Sources said the security forces were faced with a blockade by Kuki-Zo women while they were detaining the two armed individuals and also another one when women from the Meitei community were insisting on checking their vehicles.

The Kuki Women Organisation for Human Rights, based in Churachandpur’s Tuibong, issued a statement on Tuesday alleging that personnel of the Assam Rifles had assaulted women from Phaitol village during their July 8 operations on the border along Jiribam and Tamenglong districts — who were protesting the detention of the two village volunteers. The KWOHR added that security forces also did the same while detaining village volunteers in L. Hengjol.

On the operations conducted in Phaitol village on July 8, sources said that Assam Rifles was first confronted by women with “thick laathis” when they were taking the armed village volunteers away. The personnel were being beaten with the laathis as “more joined them” and in response “non-lethal force” was used to push back the women.

Meanwhile, the IGAR (South), Major General Ravroop Singh met with Governor Anusuiya Uikey at the Raj Bhawan on Tuesday to “discuss the security situation in Manipur”, according to a post on X by the Raj Bhawan. “He reported that Assam Rifles are assisting the administration by deploying personnel to vulnerable areas, including remote parts of Jiribam, and are ready to handle any situation to ensure peace,” the Raj Bhawan posted.

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