Manipur violence: Meitei group meets Rajnath Singh over removal of Assam Rifles

Sep 15, 2023 09:56 AM IST

The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), a collective of dominant Meitei groups, has sought Assam Rifles’s removal saying the force was biased

Representatives of a Meitei group met defence minister Rajnath Singh late on Thursday to press for the demand for the removal of Assam Rifles from ethnic violence-hit Manipur.

Ethnic violence in Manipur has left at least 175 dead and around 50,000 displaced. (REUTERS)
Ethnic violence in Manipur has left at least 175 dead and around 50,000 displaced. (REUTERS)

In a statement released around midnight, a collective of dominant Meitei groups said the Delhi Meitei Coordinating Committee (DMCC) met Singh at his residence and demanded another security force should replace Assam Rifles.

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The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), the collective, has sought Assam Rifles’s removal saying the force was biased. Meitei women groups have held a series of protests against the force.

COCOMI representatives have met Union home minister Amit Shah at least thrice since ethnic violence was triggered in May. The violence has left at least 175 dead and around 50,000 displaced.

COCOMI spokesperson Khuraijam Athouba said DMCC submitted a memorandum citing the threat from Kuki militant groups and the alleged bias of the Assam Rifles. Kuki groups have blamed Meitei militant groups for the violence.

Athouba said the DMCC delegation apprised Singh about the embarrassment Kuki groups caused by approaching the United Nations for a resolution to the Manipur crisis.

“DMCC reiterated that Meitei insurgency groups have been already banned by [Union] MHA [ministry of home affairs] before the year 2000, so necessary legal actions have been taken against action has been taken under the pretext of Suspension of Operations and Kukis militants are firing from hills and farmers are being killed,” Athouba said.

Athouba said the delegation told Singh that Assam Rifles was biased when dealing with Meitei and Kuki protesters. The spokesperson added they raised the issues of narco-terrorism, illegal immigrants and their identification as well as suspension of operations agreement.

Kuki groups have accused Manipur Police of bias and urged the Union government to retain Assam Rifles to restore peace in the state. Assam Rifles reports to the Union government and Manipur Police to chief minister Biren Singh, a Meitei.

Last month, Assam Rifles sent a legal notice to a Manipuri leader for his alleged remarks accusing the force of siding with Kuki militants during the clashes with Meiteis. The Manipur Police filed a first information report accusing the Assam Rifles of stopping them from pursuing Kuki militants across a buffer zone.

Assam Rifles has maintained its troops were only following the buffer zone guidelines in place to restore normalcy. It filed a sedition case against COCOMI for allegedly discouraging the return of weapons stolen from police armouries.

The Kukis and other tribal groups live in hill districts while the Meiteis in the Imphal valley and plains. The central forces are posted in the buffer zones or areas adjoining the foothills to ensure that armed people from both the Kukis and Meitei sides do not cross them to launch attacks.

Central forces have been directed against allowing even state police to cross the buffer zones without taking them along. The directive was issued against the backdrop of allegations of bias against the state police.

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