‘Only 18% of looted weapons surrendered in Manipur’

Combing operation to recover arms to begin from June 6; new security grid for Manipur; buffer zones between Kuki and Meitei settlements; Naga MLAs called to Delhi to meet Amit Shah

June 04, 2023 10:14 pm | Updated 10:46 pm IST - New Delhi

Protesters under the banner of All Kuki-ZO Tribal Women, Delhi and NCR seen during a sit-in protest. File

Protesters under the banner of All Kuki-ZO Tribal Women, Delhi and NCR seen during a sit-in protest. File | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

A month after Manipur was engulfed in ethnic violence, only 18% of over 4,000 weapons, looted or taken away from police armouries have been surrendered with the authorities, a senior government official told The Hindu.

During his four-day visit to the violence-hit State from May 29-June 1, Home Minister Amit Shah had appealed that all weapons be surrendered to the police failing which a combing operation will begin and strict action will follow against the offenders.

The weapons were looted in two phases. In the first phase when violence erupted on May 3, around 1,600 weapons were robbed and in the second phase, from May 27-28, ahead of Mr. Shah’s visit to the State, 2,557 weapons were looted. Most weapons were looted from police camps and armouries in the valley. Other than sophisticated weapons such as assault rifles, grenades and mortar bombs were also looted. A senior government official said on condition of anonymity that most weapons were given away to groups belonging to the same community as those deployed in the police camps. In some cases, the weapons were taken away after a huge mob gheraoed police camps.  

Explained | What is behind Manipur’s widespread unrest?

In all, 789 arms and 10,648 ammunition were recovered till Sunday. After Mr. Shah’s appeal, a total of 202 arms, 252 ammunition and 92 bombs of all kinds were recovered. 

Kuldiep Singh, Manipur government’s security adviser and the chief of the newly created inter-agency unified command, told The Hindu that politicians in several areas had sought more time to convince the people to surrender the weapons.  

More time sought

“The crackdown was to begin last week, but the political leaders have sought more time. We have decided to give them three more days following which a combing operation will follow from June 6,” Mr. Singh said. He added that the Kuki groups that are in a Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the government were being monitored. “Their camps are under watch, some parts of weapons were found missing,” said Mr. Singh. 

To control the ethnic violence between the Meitei and the Kuki communities, the unified command has created a security grid for the valley and hills. Buffer zones have been created between the valley where Meitei live and in the hills where Kuki live to stop any kind of clash or arson.

“The Army and the Assam Rifles are patrolling the hills, while the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) has been deployed in the buffer zones — the junction where hills and valley meet. Further down this layer, the patrolling is being done by the local police,” Mr. Singh said. 

Meanwhile, following the demand by Kuki legislators in the Manipur Assembly, which includes seven members from the BJP for a separate administration, the Home Minister has called the 10 Naga legislators for a meeting in Delhi this week. The Naga legislators, also tribals and from the hills, have distanced themselves from the demand of the Kuki members. 

While 40 of the State’s 60 MLAs are from the non-tribal Meitei community, the remaining 20 legislators are tribals, with 10 seats each for the Kukis and Nagas.  Manipur has 34 scheduled tribes.. The hills comprise 90% land area but send only 20 members to the Assembly. 

Dipu Gangmei, an MLA from Nungba, told The Hindu that all the 10 Naga legislators from Manipur are in Delhi for a meeting with the Home Minister.

“We have not been told about the agenda of the meeting with the Minister but it will take place this week,” Mr. Gangmei said. 

There are several hill districts with mix population of Nagas and Kukis. The two communities share a bloodied past when hundreds were killed in ethnic violence in the 1990s. 

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