Army chief in Manipur, forces up combing ops

May 28, 2023 12:17 AM IST

The army chief is set to visit different parts of the state and interact with the defence personnel that have been deployed to maintain law and order

GUWAHATI/IMPHAL: Army chief General Manoj Pande on Saturday arrived in violence-hit Manipur to review the law and order situation as security forces stepped up combing operations across the state that has recorded sporadic instances of fresh violence, officials aware of the matter said.

Army personnel stand guard during a combing operation in Manipur on Saturday. (PTI)
Army personnel stand guard during a combing operation in Manipur on Saturday. (PTI)

The north-eastern state was initially struck by ethnic clashes in the first week of May. The immediate trigger for the violence was a single-judge bench order of March 27 which directed the state to send within four weeks a recommendation to the Centre on the demand for scheduled tribe (ST) status by the Meitei community. Since then, 74 people have been killed and thousands displaced in the widespread violence marked by arson, rioting and targeted killings, prompting the state government to issue shoot-at-sight orders, enforce a curfew and ban internet services.

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The army chief, who is on a two-day visit to the state, met governor Anusuiya Uikey in Imphal “to discuss and deliberate over the current situation and future trajectory, in order to restore normalcy at the earliest,” an official statement said.

“[They] discussed the prevailing situation and security measures that are put in place to contain/prevent any violent and major untoward incidents in the state,” the statement added. He is scheduled to meet chief minister N Biren Singh and chief security advisor Kuldiep Singh on Sunday.

The statement added that the army chief will visit different parts of the state and interact with the defence personnel that have been deployed to maintain law and order.

“The COAS will visit various locations where he will interact with the local formation commanders and obtain a firsthand account of the situation on the ground. He will also interact with the troops,” said the statement.

The army and Assam Rifles launched large-scale combing operations on Saturday in the state’s Kangchuk, Motbung, Saikul, Pukhao, and Sagolmang to track down any armed insurgents as part of their efforts to maintain peace in the state, according to people aware of the matter.

In Imphal, the state police detained three Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel for allegedly trying to set fire to a shop in an inebriated state, people aware of the matter said.

According to officials who didn’t want to be named, inspector Somdev and constables Kuldeep Singh and Pradeep Kumar, all from the 103rd battalion of RAF, were held when they were trying to set a meat shop on fire in the New Chekhon area. The three have been suspended.

Meanwhile, the Manipur government extended the ban on internet services across the state by five more days in order to curb the spread of hate speech and maintain peace, an official order said.

“This order is issued to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order in the state of Manipur and shall be in force for next five days with immediate effect from the time this suspension order becomes operational till 3 pm of May 31,2023,” the order said.

Union home minister Amit Shah is scheduled to visit the state on Monday and hold talks with different stakeholders in an attempt to broker peace.

“I will go to Manipur soon and stay there for three days, but before that, both groups should remove mistrust and suspicion among themselves and ensure that peace is restored in the state,” Shah said on Thursday.

Union minister of state (home) Nityanand Rai, who arrived in Imphal on Thursday, told reporters that Shah will reach Manipur on May 29 to take stock of the situation and stay till June 1.

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