Non-locals in the line of insurgent fire in Assam and Manipur
103 killed in Manipur since 2001; 142 in Assam since 2007india Updated: Oct 26, 2017 14:40 IST
Lal Babu Singh’s bullet-riddled body was found near Manipur University campus in Imphal earlier this month. Four shots were fired at his chest from close range.
The 50-year-old native of Bihar, who was earning a living for the past 10 years in Manipur by selling dried fish, was blindfolded and his hands tied before he was shot at.
While none of the dozen active and banned insurgent groups in the state has claimed responsibility for the death even after two weeks, the incident has been termed as an act by an unidentified outfit.
Singh was the third non-local or outsider, terms used for non- indigenous people of the state, killed by insurgents in the state this year.
Similar selective killings of people from outside the state, particularly Hindi-speaking migrants, by the insurgents were also witnessed in neighbouring Assam, another northeastern state where anti-immigrant sentiment is high.
According to figures published by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a comprehensive website on terrorism and low-intensity warfare in South Asia, 103 non-locals have been killed by insurgents in Manipur since 2001.
Nearly 100 others have been injured in such attacks during the same period. Significantly, there were no reported killings of non-locals by insurgent outfits in 2015 and 2016.
In one of the worst attacks, nine persons were killed inside the Keibul Lamjao national park in May, 2009. Nine migrant labourers were killed and 11 others injured in a bomb attack in Imphal West in September, 2013.
These killings (unless the figures are very high) fail to attract much attention due to local sentiments against people from outside the state and slack investigation into the killings.
Usually the victims are migrant labourers, small time traders, street vendors etc.
Rights activists say till date there has been no conviction of any insurgent for murdering outsiders.
“Vulnerability of non-locals, who don’t have political clout, is high in Manipur. Ineffective police response to such attacks is a reason why the killings continue,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert (HRA) told Hindustan Times.
Since 2007, 142 outsiders have been killed in Assam, according to the SATP. Most victims were targets of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
The worst incident took place on January 5, 2007 when 48 persons were killed by ULFA militants in six separate locations in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sibsagar districts in eastern Assam in attacks targeting migrant labourers.
“There is a strong local sentiment in Assam against outsiders, be it influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh or people from other states. Militants tend to use this feeling to their advantage by targeting such people,” said a senior Assam Police officer requesting anonymity.
Since most of the victims are migrant workers and street vendors and their cases are not pursued actively by rights activists, investigations usually fail to make much headway and no arrest or conviction take place against the perpetrators.
“In northeast, politicians and many criminal armed gangs work hand in hand and as a result, hardly anyone who commits a crime, rape, murder is arrested,” said Binalakshmi Nepram, civil rights activist and founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network.