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Cops to police rallies alone

- Gaikhangam against use of village defence forces

Imphal, Dec. 28: Manipur home minister Gaikhangam today instructed superintendents of police and thanas of all districts to refrain from using village defence force (VDF) members during public upheavals.

The minister also issued instructions to all the district police authorities to send back to their camps all VDF members deployed at police stations and with police teams for law and order duty.

The step followed the death of a freelance television journalist, Th. Dwijamani alias Nanao, in firing by a joint team of VDF and police on December 23 in Imphal West to control a violent protest against the alleged molestation of film actress Momoco by senior NSCN (I-M) functionary R.P. Livingstone during a concert in Chandel on December 18.

Eight VDF members were terminated from service while two police personnel, including an assistant sub-inspector, were suspended in connection with the firing.

Three days later, four VDF members were arrested after they allegedly assaulted a construction worker on the Central Agriculture University campus in Imphal West. The labourer died of injuries suffered during the assault.

Earlier, too, the state police had received several complaints about “excessive acts” by VDF members.

The Okram Ibobi Singh government had decided to recruit the VDF personnel in 2009 for protection of villages from militant threats as the state force did not have enough manpower to deal with the rising militancy. More than 3,000 VDF members have been recruited and deployed in all the nine districts till date. Each VDF member is given a monthly remuneration of Rs 3,000 and an additional Rs 570 as ration money.

While admitting that the VDF was paid a paltry sum, Gaikhangam, who is also the deputy chief minister, told reporters today: “The VDF members are not properly trained and lack the expertise in dealing with civil society, particularly during troubled times and public protests. So I have given instructions to send them back to their identified camps.” He said if required, more VDF camps would be constructed.

Though VDF members are supposed to stay at their camps for protection of villages, police stations use them for regular police duties like frisking and checking of vehicles and conducting raids against militants. A large number of VDF members were used to control the four-day violent protests in the valley from December 21 to 24.

The minister said instructions were also given to ensure that if VDF members needed to be brought in, it should be done under the strict command of a police officer.