Trouble-torn Manipur needs an out-of-the-box solution : The Tribune India

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Trouble-torn Manipur needs an out-of-the-box solution

The only step that the Centre needs to take at this critical juncture is to empower its forces. Manipur would be irrevocably lost if the imbroglio is allowed to continue.

Trouble-torn Manipur needs an out-of-the-box solution

The way forward: An Assam-like Unified Command Structure must be formed for Manipur, Nagaland and south Arunachal Pradesh. Reuters



Jaideep Saikia

Security & Terrorism Analyst

THE security situation in Manipur has become even worse a year after violence broke out. The only way out is for the principal stakeholders to come together and thrash out a way for immediate course correction.

One must put into perspective three recent incidents in the state. Miscreants triggered an IED blast on a bridge on National Highway-2 in Kangpokpi district on April 24. The bridge connects Imphal with Nagaland's Dimapur. The highway is a major lifeline of the state and its severance has led to the stranding of over 100 trucks carrying essential supplies for the people of Manipur.

Two CRPF personnel were killed in an attack at Naranseina in Bishnupur district on April 27. A camp of the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) was located about 200 metres from the area where the CRPF men were billeted. The IRB personnel were primarily from the Meitei community. The CRPF personnel were reportedly in the process of vacating the camp and only a platoon had been left behind.

It is possible that the attackers wanted to target the Meitei members of the IRB; as the attack was carried out in the dead of night, they mistook the CRPF camp for the IRB one.

However, the target could actually have been the CRPF — a throwback to the United Liberation Front of Asom’s (ULFA) modus operandi during the mid-1990s, when the insurgent group went on a spree of killing Hindi-speaking people of Assam. The ULFA was keen to attract the attention of New Delhi, which it was successful in doing. A slew of MPs from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had descended on Assam to provide succour to their Hindi-speaking brethren. There was (and continues to be) a section of people among the Assamese population who are against outsiders setting up shop in that state.

With regard to the Naranseina incident, lawlessness in Manipur has gone so deep that there are elements which are beginning to feel that New Delhi needs to be taught a lesson. It is important to note that Central paramilitary forces such as the CRPF and the BSF had not been targeted in the past.

The finger of suspicion for the IED explosion on the bridge and the attack on the CRPF camp was mainly pointed at Kuki militants. However, it could well have been anybody. In a state that has been careening out of control since May 3, 2023, almost every group has become militarised.

The third incident pertains to anarchy continuing under political patronage. Meira Paibis waylaid an Army Casspir vehicle after the column had apprehended cadres of the Arambai Tenggol with illegal weapons. Hundreds of Meira Paibis surrounded the Casspir and were berating the soldiers. If the Army men had lost their composure, there could have been a bloodbath.

Assam has ushered in an era of peace as a result of well-honed teamwork. It is recommended that a Unified Command Structure (UCS) — as was the case in Assam — must be immediately formed for Manipur, Nagaland and south Arunachal Pradesh. It should be under the overall command of the General Officer Commanding of the Rangapahar-based 3 Corps. There must be one clear voice (naturally after due consultations) that should focus on strategy and ways and means for peace and normalcy to return.

Manipur is a house divided. The state police force is almost dysfunctional. It has abdicated its responsibility to a radical militia organisation which brooks no opposition. A DSP was picked up by the Arambai Tenggol, forcing some cops to lay down their arms. At this juncture, the police need leadership. Unfortunately, it is not going to emerge from within the force. The power over it has to be vested in a firm leader with strong organisational backing, such as the General Officer Commanding of 3 Corps.

The Assam Rifles is doing a tremendous job, but it is being accused unjustly of being partisan. Residents of the Manipur valley had asked for its removal. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been removed from many areas in Manipur, and one has witnessed the acts that non-state actors are perpetrating in the state. The Assam Rifles is already under the operational command of 3 Corps. But making it a part of the UCS would not only permit it to calibrate its operational moves with the Army, the Manipur Police and the Central paramilitary forces, but allow it greater manoeuvrability by way of robust intelligence gathering in consonance with other end users in the UCS.

It is due to the overlapping issues that Manipur, Nagaland and south Arunachal are being clubbed. For instance, one cannot divorce the problem of valley-based insurgent groups’ entry into Manipur with the help of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) from the manner in which the game will play out after the carving out of separate administrative zones. Similarly, the subterfuges in Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of south Arunachal have to be seen in light of the support that the NSCN(IM) is receiving from the Eastern Naga National Government.

The Indian state and its Army are powerful entities. They can face any challenge. The only step that New Delhi needs to take at this critical juncture is to empower its forces. The Army is capable of achieving the impossible. Manipur would be irrevocably lost if the present imbroglio is allowed to continue.

#Manipur


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