Imphal | Manipur Police has registered an FIR accusing the Assam Rifles of blocking their vehicle after an altercation between the two groups last week, while the state unit of the BJP requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to replace Assam Rifles "by any other paramilitary force permanently" from the state.
Security sources, however, described the FIR as a "travesty of justice" and said the Assam Rifles was undertaking a task given by the command headquarters of ensuring sanctity of the buffer zones between Kuki and Meitiei areas.
The FIR, a copy of which is with the PTI, was filed on August 5 when police alleged that the Assam Rifles blocked police vehicles on the Kwakta Gothol road in Bishnupur district.
The FIR claimed Assam Rifles stopped its personnel from proceeding when "the state police was on its way to Pholjang Road along Kwakta as follow up action to conduct search operations in an arms act case in search of Kuki militants." The police claimed that its personnel were stopped by 9 Assam Rifles which parked their ‘Casper' vehicle blocking the road.
Defence sources reacted stating "Assam Rifles was undertaking a task given by the command headquarters of ensuring sanctity of the buffer zones between Kuki and Meitiei areas." In the evening, the Manipur unit of BJP requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to replace Assam Rifles "by any other paramilitary force permanently" from the state in the interest of the public and also sought his intervention to bring an amicable solution to the ongoing ethnic unrest at the earliest.
In a memorandum to Modi, the party's Manipur unit said, "The role of Assam Rifles in regard to the ethnic unrest and in maintaining peace and tranquility in the state has been under considerable criticism and public outrage." "Since Day 1 of the violence on May 3, Assam Rifles has failed to maintain neutrality so as to restore peace in the state," the party said, adding, "The public anger and protest over Assam Rifles for playing the role of partisanship in this highly delicate and sensitive ethnic unrest continues to be witnessed unabated…the Assam Rifles has been charged by the public for their biased role in tackling the situation." The memorandum signed by its president A Sharda Devi and vice-president Chidananda recalled the recent incident when Assam Rifles allegedly blocked a team of the state police who were in pursuit of militants who had killed three civilians.
The memorandum comes days after Manipur Police filed an FIR against 9 AR for "disobeying law by public servant with intent to cause injury to any person, obstructing public servant in charge of public function." In another development, Assam Rifles personnel, based at Moirang Lamkhai checkpoint in Manipur's Bishnupur, where fresh violence erupted last week, have been withdrawn and substituted by the CRPF and the state police, a notification said.
The notification, issued by Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) L Kailun on Monday, said "the checkpoint at Moirang Lamkhai on the Bishnupur to Kangvai Road shall be manned by the civil police and 128 Bn CRPF in place of 9 AR with immediate effect and until further orders".
Assam Rifles has been contacted, and a response from the paramilitary force is awaited.
Meanwhile, security has been tightened across the state ahead of United Naga Council's proposed rallies in Naga-inhabited areas of the northeastern state on August 9 to press for successfully concluding the peace talks with the Centre based on the Framework Agreement.
In a statement, the United Naga Council (UNC) said rallies will be held in
the district headquarters of Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel districts from 10 am on Wednesday.
The UNC, an influential Naga body, has appealed to all Nagas to participate in the rallies in large numbers.
Naga Hoho, a powerful civic body of the Naga tribes, has meanwhile asked the 10 Naga MLAs in Manipur not to attend the proposed assembly session from August 21, claiming that the Manipur government has been working against peace talks with Naga groups.
Most of the Kuki MLAs irrespective of their party affiliations are unlikely to attend the Manipur assembly session in view of the continued ethnic violence, according to leaders from the community.
There are 10 Kuki-Zomi MLAs, including seven from the BJP, two from the Kuki People's Alliance and one independent, in the Manipur House which has a strength of 60 members.
Rioting between the Meiteis and Kuki-Zomi communities broke out in May after protests over a court judgment which seemed to favour the majority Meiteis who live in the Imphal valley and who have been demanding Scheduled Tribe status, currently enjoyed by Kuki-Zomi and Naga tribals in the state.
More than 160 people lost their lives and several hundreds were injured since the ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3, after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.