Assam Rifles, engaged in anti-insurgency operations in Manipur, is mired in a row over allegations that its men manning a highway were demanding bribes from truckers to let their vehicles enter Silchar in Assam.
The All Manipur Truck Owners and Drivers Welfare Association has accused the Assam Rifles troopers of detaining 12 trucks carrying iron scraps to Silchar at Keithelmanbi, about 25 km west of Imphal.
"The trucks were stopped by Assam Rifles personnel on February 14. They demanded Rs.2,000 per vehicle saying the road (National Highway 53) belonged to them," a spokesman for the association told journalists on February 17.
"In fact Assam Rifles troopers were already collecting Rs.500 from each vehicle for the past two or three months and now they have suddenly jacked up the amount to Rs.2,000," he alleged.
With the drivers refusing to pay the money, the trucks were allegedly detained for two days and later forced to return to Imphal.
The association has lodged a complaint with the police. Under pressure, the Assam Rifles was forced to order an investigation.
"We have ordered an inquiry and action will be taken if anyone is found guilty," Assam Rifles spokesman Col. L.M. Pant said.
This is not the first time that security forces are embroiled in a controversy. Two years back an overdose of adventurism by an army captain and his platoon over power supply interruptions in Manipur led to a bizarre row with the state government filing a criminal case against the army unit.
An army captain and some 50 uniformed soldiers brandishing weapons allegedly entered a power installation at Yurembam on the outskirts of Imphal and forced officials to shut down power supply.
Manipur Chief Secretary Jarnail Singh had to personally come to the power station to cool tempers and made the soldiers withdraw their siege and restore power to the city.
The city was without power for more than an hour due to the army action.