On Thursday, a large number of women protesters surrounded a number of police stations in Manipur’s valley during demonstrations demanding the release of five individuals who had been arrested for allegedly possessing firearms and donning camouflage uniforms. The demonstrations turned violent as they demanded the release of those individuals.
The situation became especially tense at the Singjamei police station in Imphal West, where the residence of the officer in command was also vandalised. Police and security personnel responded with teargas projectiles, resulting in the injury of three civilians.
Typically, Meitei society stakeholders – ranging from the largest civil society organisation, COCOMI, to the influential Meira Paibis or women vigilantes – have demanded the withdrawal of Assam Rifles from the state, but have avoided conflict with the police. This is one of the first instances of Meitei civil society members directing their anger at the state police in the valley, which is predominantly comprised of Meitei personnel since the Kukis who were a part of the force were forced to escape in May when violence erupted.
On September 16, five individuals were detained in Konga, Imphal East, for misusing official uniforms under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and the Official Secrets Act.
The Deccan Era had learned that the suspects had been apprehended with an INSAS rifle, an SLR, two.303 rifles, and numerous magazines and rounds of ammunition. Moirangthem Anand Singh (45) has been identified as a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur cadre who later joined the Kangleipak Communist Party (Noyon) organisation. Seven arrests had been made between 1997 and 2010. The ages of the detained individuals range between 28 and 39.
After their detention, there were numerous attempts to storm the Porompat police station in Imphal East in an effort to secure their release. Local groups responded to claims by Meitei groups that the five were “volunteers” by instituting a 48-hour bandh beginning at midnight on Tuesday.
According to sources, on Thursday there were attempts to breach seven-eight police stations in the Imphal East district, seven in the Imphal West district, and a few in the Thoubal, Kakching, and Bishnupur districts. In addition to Singjamei, tear gas was also utilised in Heingang and Porompat police stations.
This week, Manipur’s Additional Secretary (Home), Maharabam Pradip Singh, addressed the media to highlight the threat to law and order posed by individuals misusing police uniforms and to explain that the arrest of these five individuals was part of an effort to combat this.
“In light of the current crisis in Manipur, the administration of Manipur, led by the state police, is exerting every effort to restore order. However, there are reports of armed criminals posing as CDOs and prowling the streets while armed. Armed criminals who have resorted to extortion demands and threats have hindered the genuine efforts of the police, and in response, the police have taken multiple measures to combat the menace, he said.
“Examples include the various search operations and the installation of multiple nakas along diverse strategic routes. On the sixteenth of this month, at one of the nakas set up in the Kongba region, we apprehended five armed criminals wearing what appeared to be CDO uniform or camouflage uniform and carrying weapons. In addition, reports from various valley districts in Manipur indicate an increase in the frequency of extortion demands and threats, he said.
Concerned about “further disturbance” in the law and order situation, curfew has been reinstated in all districts of Imphal West and Imphal East in response to the incidents.