TODAY -

From partiality to complicity
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: June 15, 2024 -



The barbed wire installed by Assam Rifles in between Chandrapur and Rani Veng area of Jiribam district may have been removed following protest by the locals and the CO of 39 Assam Rifles may have given the assurance of not engaging in any activity which might cause inconvenience to free movement of the locals.

But this incident has once again raised question on the conduct and role of the country's oldest central paramilitary force in the ethnic conflict between the Meetei/Meitei and Kuki-Chin communities that has been going on in the tiny northeastern Indian state of Manipur since May 3 last year.

Among the many companies of central security forces being deployed in Manipur to help the state administration in not only containing the violence but also in maintaining law and order so as to speed up the effort of restoring peace and normalcy, Assam Rifles has been always singled out for allegedly siding with the Kuki-Chin.

Apart from fingers pointed at by the public, there had been instances when personnel of state police came in direct confrontation with the troopers of Assam Rifles for blocking road to allegedly facilitate Kuki-Chin militants to escape after carrying out attack on Meetei/Meitei villages.

In fact, the state police had even filed an FIR against the personnel of 9 Assam Rifles in this regard and elected representatives to the Manipur Legislative Assembly cutting across party lines had sought replacement of Assam Rifles by some other "trustworthy central forces" to assist Manipur police in restoring peace and normalcy in the state.

But all these allegations have been rebutted by the Assam Rifles as 'fabricated attempts' to malign the image of the oldest paramilitary force in the country and media houses which carried such news reports advised to verify the information before publishing them.

Yet, the questionable conduct of Assam Rifles has already come to the fore, grabbing the headlines.

Whatever be their intention and purpose, Assam Rifles has definitely put itself in an awkward situation this time when the locals forced its troopers to remove the barbed wire installed in Chandrapur and Rani Veng area of Jiribam district.

As the local people have stated, if it was not for the protection of the houses of Kuki-Chin people including that of United Tribal Liberation Army (UTLA) chairman SK Thadou in Rani Veng, why the Assam Rifles has not taken up similar protective measures in other parts of the district where not just hundreds of houses but also forest check posts have been reduced to ashes?

What compulsion does the central paramilitary force have to come up with the decision of installing barbed wire fencing only in Chandrapur and Rani Veng area with complete disregard of the inconveniences likely to be faced by people in moving around freely?

These are some of the questions that would naturally come to the mind of anyone. Moreover, whether UTLA chairman SK Thadou is a surrenderee, not bound by the SoO agreement, or, he was not staying in Rani Veng, as the CO of 39 Assam Rifles had tried his best to convince the people, is beside the point here.

In the current intense situation in Jiribam district where everyone lives in fear, what the people expect from any security forces is the assurance and trust that their lives would be protected and their properties safeguarded without any favour or discrimination.

As the authority of central security forces deployed in Jiribam district still owes an explanation as to why their men in uniform had demonstrated more machismo in evacuating the Meetei villagers from their own houses hastily rather than facing the armed Kuki militants, the barbed wire installed (though removed now) to ostensibly segregate the houses of Kuki-Chin people could very well be construed as yet another act of partiality, if not complicity, in the more than one year long ethnic violence in Manipur, which the Assam Rifles has been rebutting all along.

But when Indigenous Tribes Advisory Council (ITAC) harped on the same old rhetoric line of "the Hmar-Kuki-Zomi tribal people of Jiribam had been totally separated from the Meetei community", one can't help but think of the complicity as well.



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