Armed men in police uniforms are a constant challenge for the Central security forces in violence-hit Manipur, a defence source said on September 10. There have been several instances of uniformed men carrying automatic weapons, firing at Central security forces deployed in buffer zones, preceded by blockade and protest by women-led groups.
Meanwhile, around 4,500 additional Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel will be sent to the State after the conclusion of the G-20 summit in Delhi, a senior government official said, adding that a request has been made to the State government to provide accommodation to the Central forces since schools and colleges have reopened. Other than the CAPF, around 36,000 Central forces including the Army, are deployed in the State.
On September 8, when a Kuki-Zo village — Monloi — was attacked near Pallel town, armed men in police uniforms who had forced their way through the nearby fields were seen decamping with goods from shops and homes before the structures were burnt down. The Hindu has photographs of the incident. The source said the attack at Pallel was well-planned as the area has a mixed population of Kuki-Zo, Meitei, and Naga communities and had so far remained devoid of any incident since ethnic violence erupted in the State on May 3.
The source said that Central security forces deployed in the buffer zone were able to thwart the attack, though arson took place and several houses in the village, and those in Pallel market were destroyed.
In another video clip that surfaced on September 8, some men in police uniforms are seen having an argument with Assam Rifles personnel in the Pallel area over the passage of an ambulance. The source said while State police were allowed to pass the cordon after verification of credentials, the other uniformed men were stopped. On June 26, the Army posted a 2.14-minute video on X (formerly Twitter) which showed ambulances being used to ferry armed miscreants.
Another government official said that a large number of weapons that were looted from police armouries are yet to be recovered. More than 4,000 weapons are said to have been looted since May 3. “Some of these police weapons are being sold in the black market. There have been reports of Meitei selling the weapons to the Kuki-Zo people. There are apprehensions that the weapons could pave the way for Left Wing Extremism [LWE] in affected areas,” said the official.
The official added that military fatigues and police uniforms are readily available in the State.
The Central forces including the Army, Assam Rifles and other CAPFs are deployed in the foothills of the buffer zones that lie between Meitei-dominated valley areas and Kuki-Zo dominated hill districts.
On Saturday, the Manipur Cabinet condemned the conduct of security forces in controlling the mob at Pallel.
Two men who were part of the mob were shot dead while scores of women were injured when mild force was used by security personnel to disperse the crowd in Pallel in Tengnoupal district.
The Cabinet decision came despite a Manipur Police statement that a firefight erupted between armed miscreants and security forces after the former attempted arson and violence at Monloi village, a Kuki-Zo settlement.
On Saturday, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh assured women activists that Assam Rifles personnel in the State shall be replaced this month with Central forces. M. Lingjelthoibi, a leader of the women activists said, “We shall wait till September 30 since the assurance was given by the Chief Minister. If he fails to keep his word we shall resume various forms of agitations.”
Another woman activist said, “There have been instances of Assam Rifles siding with the Kuki militants.”
The defence source said that Central forces including the Army have been requisitioned by the State government and are manning the buffer zones to control violence between both communities. The source said Assam Rifles and other Central forces are non-partisan and act per the directions of the State government.
(With inputs from Iboiyama Laithangbam)