Ibobi Singh: Strategist
Imphal, May 4: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s radical strategy of arming villagers to fight militancy may have enraged civil society groups, but the Rs 3,000 a month it promises has washed away all apprehensions for hundreds of unemployed youths.
Beginning tomorrow, 300 village special police officers (SPOs) will be recruited from among local youths at Heirok in Ibobi Singh’s home district Thoubal, where three youths were killed by militants last month.
Another 200 officers will be recruited from Chajing in Imphal West, once the recruitment drive in Heirok ends. Both villages had been demanding arms for villagers’ self-defence in the wake of frequent rebel attacks.
The decision was finally taken during a cabinet meeting last Friday.
Till now, Manipur has used state and central forces to fight rebels. By raising the special police officers’ units, the Ibobi Singh government hopes to enlist people’s support in the battle.
The social representatives, however, have begun their own fight against the government’s move.
Both Apunba Lup, which heads the campaign against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Untied Committee Manipur that fights for protection of Manipur’s territorial integrity, have condemned the cabinet decision.
Apunba Lup will hold a rally in Imphal on May 11 to demand the withdrawal of the cabinet decision and also against army excesses.
The general unpopularity of the decision does not spill to Heirok though, where local youths have been gearing for the police recruitment rally.
A spokesman for the Heirok joint action committee said they have willingly accepted the government’s proposal for self-defence. “We are looking forward to the recruitment rally and I am hoping to be one of the SPOs,” a youth, who did not wish to be named, said.
What gladdened the villagers most was the job opportunity the move would provide. “My two sons are taking part in the recruitment rally tomorrow,” a village elder said.
The director-general of police, Yumnam Joykumar Singh, visited Heirok yesterday and identified five locations for construction of barracks for the special police officers.
The recruitment procedure will be completed in two days and thereafter the recruits will be given one month’s training at Manipur Police Training Centre in Pangei.
“Only healthy young boys, who have passed matriculation examination, will be recruited. A three-member medical team will examine their fitness,” Joykumar said.
Once they are ready to begin work, the special police officers will get .303 rifles and a monthly remuneration of Rs 3,000 each.
The entire expenditure will be borne by the Centre.
After Heirok, a similar process for recruitment will begin at Chajing village in Imphal West.
The respective district superintendents of police will be the commanders of the SPO units and a police officer will be assigned to each village as the field commander.
If the units at the two villages function as planned, Ibobi Singh government may set up more SPO units on demand from villages willing to set up similar units for self-defence.