Manipur: Questions raised over role of local MLA in release of 12 militants
State lawmaker said he was present at the spot, but added that he had not asked security forces to release the men
A controversy broke out on Monday over the role of a Bhartiya Janata Party legislator during a standoff in Manipur two days ago that ended with the release of 12 apprehended militants, with security officials saying the lawmaker was negotiating with the forces and the politician saying he was at the spot merely in his official capacity.
On Saturday afternoon, a mob of around 1,500 people led by women in Imphal refused to let the security forces take 12 men from the Meitei separatist group Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL). The face-off was resolved once the men were handed over to the mob and allowed to go.
State lawmaker Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh said he was present at the spot, but added that he had not asked security forces to release the men.
But security officials said Singh was part of the mob. “The legislator was present with the mob. Our forces left the area along with the recovered weapons and ammunition,” a security official said. “The MLA was the one negotiating with the forces when the mob refused to let them take the apprehended men.”
Singh denied the charge. “I went to the spot after I received a call from an army official. I am the local MLA so I had to be there,” he said. “But I did not ask the forces to release anyone.”
The forces recovered assault rifles, grenades and other explosives from the 12 men, the official quoted above said.
Manipur has been convulsed since May 3 by ethnic clashes between the Meitei community, which constitutes the majority of the state’s population and lives largely in Imphal, and the Kukis, who comprise 16% of the state’s population and live largely in the hill districts. At least 131 people have been killed and another 40,000 displaced.
On Saturday night, the army tweeted that all 12 apprehended men were handed to a “local leader” but did not name anyone. At around 2.30 pm on Saturday, security forces laid a cordon after receiving a tip-off about cadre of KYKL, a Meitei separatist group, that had come to Itham village in Imphal East district. While security forces apprehended 12 men, including Moirangthem Tamba, alias Uttam, along with weapons, a mob led by women surrounded the area and prevented the forces from completing the operation.
Tamba, the army said, is the mastermind of an attack in 2015 in which 18 army men were killed. The army’s tweet said repeated appeals to the aggressive mob did not yield a result. “Keeping in view the sensitivity of use of kinetic force against large irate mob led by women and likely casualties due to such action... decision was taken to hand over all 12 cadres to local leaders,” the tweet said.
HT contacted Shivakanta Singh, superintendent of police in Imphal East, but not respond to calls and text messages. The Manipur government did not respond to requests for comment.