TODAY -

Controversial arrest and chaotic confusion
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: March 16, 2024 -



THE arrest of two top members of the Pambei-led United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and another cadre in a joint operation led by the sleuths of National Investigation Agency (NIA) on March 13 and the subsequent public protest demanding unconditional release of the arrest trio has come to serve as a perfect recipe for causing chaos in a society which is already reeling under the debilitating impact of an unprecedented ethnic crisis that broke out between two communities and has been raging for more than 10 months with no sign of any solution.

The protest of the people has stemmed from the fact that the Pambei-led UNLF had signed a peace deal with the government of India and the state government on November 29, 2023.

Apart from describing the peace deal signed with one of the oldest armed Meetei majority groups as a 'historic milestone" by none other than union home minister Amit Shah himself, chief minister N Biren Singh had not only hailed it as the dawn of "a new era of peace and progress" in Manipur but also hosted a state-sponsored event at the historic Kangla Fort in Imphal on December 2, 2023 to accord warm welcome to all leaders and cadres of the outfit.

So, the general population, who are ignorant of the larger politics at play behind signing peace deals, are naturally confused over why the top leaders of an armed group which had recently entered into peace negotiation with the government are being arrested.

The confusion in the mind of the public who desire nothing but peace and progress has been further compounded when the chief minister said that the arrest of the Pambei-led UNLF leaders was made without the state government's knowledge iand the Ministry of Home Affairs has been asked to share prior information with the state government if members of outfits under peace agreement with the government must be arrested.

It is a fact that National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been vested with the power of investigating any terror cases across the country without requiring special permission from the state concerned under a written proclamation from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Created initially as a central counter-terrorism law enforcement agency in the Country by an Act of the Indian Parliament passed on December 31, 2008 following the devastating 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack that took place in the same year, the authority of NIA has been further expanded and strengthened when the Parliament approved the NIA Amendment Bill 2019 on July 17, 2019, thus, allowing officers of NIA to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.

So, there is an element of truth when the chief minister said that arrest of the UNLF leaders was made without the state government's knowledge.

Moreover, as it has now come to light that the arrest was made in connection with case number 23 of NIA, Delhi registered on July 19, 2023 which relates to "a transnational conspiracy by Myanmar based leadership of militant outfits to wage war against the government of India by exploiting the current ethnic unrest in Manipur," it would have been proper for NIA to keep the government of Manipur in the dark before effecting the arrest.

However, even if the permission of the state concerned is not required for the NIA to carry out its activities, Section 9 of the National Investigation Agency Act makes it clear that "The State Government shall extend all assistance and co-operation to the Agency for investigation of the Scheduled offences."

This means that the arrest could not have been possible without the help of the state police and media reports have already pointed out it was a joint operation led by NIA.

Thus, the claim that the arrest was made without the state government's knowledge has failed to convince the public, howsoever ignorant they might be of the politics at play behind signing peace deals; as not seeking the permission by NIA does not necessarily translate into keeping the state government in the dark about the arrest of top leaders of an armed group in a case that got registered more than five months prior to signing of a peace accord hailed by the chief minister as the dawn of "a new era of peace and progress".



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