Imphal, Sep 23 (SocialNews.XYZ) Though a very challenging task, the recovery of thousands of looted guns and ammunition is now the top priority for the authorities in ethnic violence hit Manipur as less than one third of such weapons have been recovered in the past 115 days.
Many senior in-service and retired police and army officers have also said that recovery of the huge number of looted arms must be undertaken on a priority basis.
Lt Gen L. Nishikanta Singh (retd), who served in the Indian Army for 40 years in various capacities and headed the army’s Intelligence Corps for 5 years, also emphasised that recovery of arms and talks between the Meitei and Kuki communities is very important to end the ethnic hostilities.
According to various reports, during the ethnic riots which broke out on May 3, over 4,000 different types of sophisticated arms and lakhs of different types of ammunition were looted from the police stations and police outposts by the mobs, attackers and militants.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah after his four-day (May 29-June 1) visit to Manipur, on June 1 urged the people in possession of these looted arms, to return them otherwise the security forces would take appropriate action.
The Manipur government has also on a number of occasions made similar appeals to the people.
According to a top police official, so far 1365 sophisticated firearms and 15,100 various types of ammunition have been recovered from different parts of the state.
The Manipur government in its latest directive on Friday night warned the people who have looted arms to return them within 15 days, otherwise strict legal and security measures would be taken against them.
The state government is willing to take a considerate view of the persons depositing such weapons by October 6, said the state government order, that was issued by Chief Minister N. Biren Singh’s office.
The directive said that after October 6, the Centre and the state security forces would launch a comprehensive search operation all over the state to recover the looted weapons, and all persons associated with any illegal weapons will be dealt with strictly, as per the law.
Terming this as a serious matter, police officials said that using these looted arms, some cadres of different groups and miscreants extorted money from the people through intimidation and abduction threats.
The Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) headed by Justice Utpalendu Bikas Saha (retired) earlier this month in a letter to Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi made six recommendations, including recovery of looted arms and ammunition.
Accepting the recommendations of the MHRC, the state government has directed the Director General of Police to recover the arms and ammunition, looted during the ethnic riot from the armouries of the security forces and the Churachandpur gun shop.
The Manipur government on September 22 told the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud that it has filed a status report on the recovery of arms from “all sources”.
The apex court had on September 6, directed the Manipur government and the security agencies to file a status report on the recovery of arms from ‘all sources’ in the violence-hit state.
In a fresh development in the trouble-torn state, insurgents have acquired vehicles and modified them to resemble those used by the Central paramilitary forces like the Assam Rifles.
The Assam Rifles has requested the Manipur police to take prompt action against the insurgents who are using the vehicles converted to resemble the TATA 407 vehicle, being used by Assam Rifles by painting the Assam Rifles insignia.
On September 16, the Manipur police arrested five persons in Imphal with looted weapons and wearing camouflage uniforms.
On Friday, the Manipur police displayed a fake identity card, posted on X (formerly Twitter) : "Fake I-card. Manipur Police has not issued such a card. Necessary legal action will be initiated."
Various tribal organisations including the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF), an apex body of tribals in Manipur and Kuki organisation Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) claimed that some valley based insurgent groups are using the looted arms in their violent activities.
The ethnic violence between the non-tribal Meiteis and the tribal Kukis broke out in the northeastern state after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
At least 175 people were killed, 1108 injured and 32 are missing in Manipur since the ethnic violence broke out.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s 3.2 million population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while the tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mostly in the hill districts, which comprises around 90 per cent of the state’s total geographical area.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)