My prayer is not for remedial actions or compensations for the loss suffered by the Meiteis. I only point out the fact that it is not a communal or ethnic riot. Civilians do not fight with militants in an ethnic clash.
By Jagat Thoudam
As an advisor of the Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Manipur (IPFM), I have been requested to share my experience as a person who has been working with almost every major issue that has been affecting Manipur. I wish to highlight my views on the present crisis in Manipur.
I recall one incidence way back in 2001 when we visited the then Assam Rifles HQ at Kangla along with a journalist friend from New Delhi. In the meeting the Officer in his show of masculinity had declared that he had ordered abduction of a Manipuri lady and another person by plain-clothed para-personnel in broad daylight. Again, in his bravado he had asked her if she wanted to see the abducted persons who were under his custody, which was tantamount to saying, “The immunity we get under the AFSPA 1984 is a wonderful weapon by virtue of which we can do whatever we want to do”.
What I want to share here is that what is shown outside is really different from what is inside. As any solution requires understanding the genesis of the issue, it is strongly felt that the real story needs to be told truthfully. However, since there is no time for lengthy narratives, do allow me to raise the few questions which I feel captures the genesis of the present crisis in Manipur.
- Are you aware that the present crisis in Manipur is the creation of the Assam Rifles under IGAR (South), Mantripukhri?
- Are you aware that SoO militants especially the KNA/KNO, terrorist outfits based in Myanmar, have grown to a monstrous size and strength in Manipur under the protection the Assam Rifles?
- Are you aware that the frontal organisations of the Kuki SoO militant outfits have become so arrogant that they have been aggressively attacking the majority community for a long time by claiming important religious, historical and protected sites/lands as their ancestral land besides encroaching upon Reserve and Protected forests and wildlife sanctuaries?
- Are you aware that more than half of the geographical area of Manipur has been claimed as Kuki ancestral land which has been made possible by the support the Kuki Militant outfits? Their confidence has inflated knowing that the Assam Rifles are their protectors.
- Are you aware that the Kukis have been aggressively putting forward the false propaganda that the total area of Manipur is just 700 square miles, simply to hurt the majority community’s the sentiments?
- Are you aware that the Assam Rifles have allowed the Kuki SoO militant outfits to set up several camps outside their designated camps? The camps are even located in buildings in populated urban areas. These camps have been in existence for a long time under the protection of the Assam Rifles. Few examples are illustrated below to highlight the facility of the existence of these camps.
- Kuki National Army (KNA) set up its camp at Moreh Ward No.1 instead of staying at its designated camp at Chilep, Tengnoupal District Headquarter.
- United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF) set up its camp at S. Moljol Village, opposite to Chavangphai Assam Rifles Camp, Moreh town instead of staying at its designated camp at Chandel District.
- Both the SoO bound outfits are freely moving in and around Moreh, an important border commercial town, with arms, extorting money from businessman and public as well as indulging in kidnapping and demanding ransom very frequently.
- Another of UKLF is also at the non-designated camp of Nazareth Village established by the Assam Rifles at Khambathel (around 1/2 km from Sugnu Bazar) instead of staying at its designated camp.
- Do you have the knowledge that at Haolenphai Village, around 3 Km from Moreh town, around 70 armed cadres of the People’s Democratic Front (PDF) from Myanmar are stationed with the full knowledge of the Assam Rifles?
- Do you have the knowledge that KNA is training the PDF cadres at Sahei Village and B. Bongjang Village with full knowledge of the Assam Rifles?
- Are you aware that ethnicisation of trade in Moreh is being facilitated by Assam Rifles to favour Kukis at the expense of other communities residing there or otherwise?
- Do you have the knowledge that the Assam Rifles has created the conducive environment for the inflow of Kuki migrants from Myanmar who are employed either in poppy cultivation or use them as gun/drug runners by Kuki militants?
- Do you have the knowledge that Kuki frontal organisation like the Kuki Students’ Organisation physically brings in illegal Kuki migrants from Myanmar, their Aadhaar and other related identity documents are prepared by Autonomous District Council officials at the behest of the Hills Tribal Council, Moreh? It is more or less the same phenomena in other Kuki dominated districts of Manipur where different Kuki frontal organisations undertake the task.
- Do you have the knowledge that the Assam Rifles could have prevented the arson and burning down of Meitei houses/villages on 3rd May 2023 at Churachandpur, Moreh, and other places? In fact, the Manipur Government reportedly sent several SoS to the Central Government for timely intervention and assistance. Why did not the concerned Ministry act on time? If this has happened, the violence could not have escalated to this scale.
- Are you aware that thousands of displaced Meiteis of Churachandpur, Moreh, Motbung, Ekou have no second home to fallback unlike the others who have been displaced from Imphal?
- Are you aware that what is happening currently in Manipur is narco-terrorism for creating a homeland led by Kuki SoO militant outfits funded by illegal poppy cultivation, opium production and drug smuggling?
- Need I add that the present onslaught against the Meiteis was well-planned and pre-mediated as it pertained to land, and fulfilment of the Kuki’s idea of homeland. Few facts in this regard are highlighted below:
- The Kuki militants indulged blank-firing to frighten away the residents of the Meitei houses in particular neighbourhoods followed by acts of arson without killing the victims
- Few days later, the militants return to the same site and gain control of the area by firing few rounds from their sophisticated weapons. The idea is to further frighten away the original inhabitants and prevent reclaiming of the land either by the security forces or the original inhabitants
- In the third follow up design, hordes of Kuki militants simultaneously attack Meitei villages and chase them out just as spelt out in 20 followed by 21
- Only when there are resistances, Kuki militants engage in gunfights with either the village volunteers or the state security forces. The whole idea is to restrict number of Meitei causalities
- Infuriated, mob Meiteis from every nook and corner of Manipur came out in thousands and responded wildly and fell into the trap set by the Kuki masterminds. Since the Meitei could not protect the houses, they chased the militants
- In this modus operandi, Meitei have less number of dead bodies than the body counts of the Kuki militants. Meiteis have fallen into the Kuki traps. Now they have every reason to claim that the majority population have killed the minority.
- On this body count, your esteemed self has claimed the legitimacy of providing security to the Kukis despite the fact that arson of Meitei houses took place right under the nose of the Indian security forces.
- The reality by now is the Meiteis are sanitised from areas dominated by the Kukis, their land taken over and claim that these are “tribal” lands. What is your honour going to do about this tragedy.
My prayer is not for remedial actions or compensations for the loss suffered by the Meiteis. I only point out the fact that it is not a communal or ethnic riot. Civilians do not fight with militants in an ethnic clash. And for sanity’s sake, please do not equate the black-clothed youths who have taken blessings from their parents to guard the Meiteis as Arambai Tengol. It has been disbanded long ago and it is only a name used by the Meitei boys to instil fear in the minds of the Kuki militants.
I plead you not to protect the integrity of Manipur but the integrity of the Assam Rifles, which at present, the Meiteis hold them responsible for creating this mayhem, of which you are morally responsible.
(Jagat Thoudam is advisor to Indigenous People’s Front, Manipur. Facts and views expressed here are the writer’s own and does not represent the opinion of TFM)