Imphal, Nov 01: A team of Manipur Police commandos sent to the border town of Moreh as reinforcements after a senior police officer was shot dead were ambushed by suspected insurgents, according to the police. The ambush occurred 10 kilometers short of the Tengnoupal district. Many commandos were injured and have been taken to the hospital.
Tensions Over Alleged Indiscriminate Use of Force
Kuki civil society groups have alleged that the attack was a retaliatory shoot-out with Kuki village volunteers over the alleged indiscriminate use of force by police commandos. They accused the Manipur government of deploying state forces to harass civilians and demanded that the central government withdraw the police from the border town.
A senior police officer in Moreh claimed that some groups often claim “village volunteers” as a cover for insurgent attacks, and there is no way to know for certain that these “village volunteers” will not lead an attack.
Complex Territorial Challenges
The India-Myanmar border trading town of Moreh is about 115 kilometers from the state capital Imphal. While the distance may not seem significant on paper, the Imphal-Moreh route is fraught with hills, jungles, and hairpin bends, increasing the risk of ambush by insurgents.
The Manipur Police sent the commando reinforcements to Moreh after security forces began an operation to neutralize the suspected insurgent sniper who killed the police officer. The unprecedented attack on the helipad project and the subsequent ambush marked a significant increase in hostilities between security forces and insurgents in Manipur.
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Struggles to Send Reinforcements
The Manipur Police had difficulties sending police personnel to the border town due to roadblocks by miscreants. The need for a larger helipad arose, and the state forces decided to build one. The new helipad is being built for the exclusive use of state forces to transport police and paramilitary personnel to Moreh from other parts of Manipur, as the road to Moreh is blocked by miscreants at many places and poses a high risk of ambush.
Kuki Civil Society Groups React
Kuki civil society groups have strongly condemned the Manipur government’s attempts to deploy police to Moreh and carry out indiscriminate operations against Kuki civilians. They have urged the Indian government to withdraw the police commandos from Moreh to prevent any untoward incident against the minority Kuki-Zo community.
Unequal Treatment of Cop Deaths
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) criticized Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh over what it claimed was inequality in the treatment of two cases of cop deaths. They mentioned the case of Onkhomang Haokip, who was killed in September, and the recent incident. The ITLF stated that the Chief Minister’s Office remained silent on social media after Haokip’s death, and no immediate action was taken. They called the government’s response indifferent.
Human Cost of Manipur Ethnic Violence
Ethnic violence in Manipur has resulted in over 180 deaths and the displacement of thousands. Tensions have risen between the Kuki tribes and the Meiteis over the Meiteis’ demand for inclusion under the Scheduled Tribes category. The entry of illegal immigrants has also been cited as a significant factor in the unrest.
NIA Investigation into Alleged Transnational Conspiracy
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is looking into an alleged transnational conspiracy involving terror groups in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Manipur. These groups are suspected of exploiting the ethnic violence in Manipur.
The situation remains complex and volatile in Manipur as ethnic clashes, territorial disputes, and insurgent activities continue to pose challenges to law enforcement and government efforts to maintain peace and security in the region.