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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Activist Binalakshmi Nepram advises Manipur government to rely on civil society organisations for recovery of looted arms

At least 4,200 weapons and a huge quantity of ammunition were looted from police armouries, training centres and licensed shops after clashes broke out between the Meitei and Kuki communities

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 26.06.23, 04:26 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

About 57 per cent of the arms and ammunition looted by mobs in Manipur are yet to be recovered, prompting a leading activist from the state to suggest that the government should not hesitate to take the help of civil society organisations with “experience” in recovering arms.

At least 4,200 weapons and a huge quantity of ammunition were looted from police armouries, stations, battalions, training centres and licensed shops after clashes broke out between the Meitei and Kuki communities on May 3, leaving at least 131 dead and 60,000 displaced.

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Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday told an all-party meeting that 1,800 weapons have been recovered. A Manipur police statement on Friday had said 1,095 arms, 13,702 rounds of ammunition and 250 bombs had been recovered.

The looted arms included AK-series rifles, Insas rifles, self-loading rifles, light machine guns, pistols, grenade launchers, sniper rifles and smoke guns.

Binalakshmi Nepram, convener of the Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace and founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, said in a mail to The Telegraph that “faith and trust must be restored immediately in Manipur”. She had been asked about the ongoing violence, the recovery of looted weapons and what needs to be done to restore peace.

Nepram, who hails from Manipur, said India as a United Nations member “can and must not hesitate” to take the help of civil society organisations with experience, such as the New Delhi-based Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI), for the recovery of arms and ammunition.

“The government, policy-makers and civil society, including women’s groups, can work together to take weapons out and rebuild trust to restore peace,” Nepram said.

“If this (restoring faith and trust) is not done, then what we are seeing in Manipur can also impact the entire Northeast and the country. This has serious security implications,” she said.

Once trust is restored, “then the appeal for ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ which we at the Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace have been calling for can bear fruition”, Nepram said.

The CAFI website says it is a New Delhi-based gun-control organisation co-founded in 2004 by Nepram to curb armed violence caused by the proliferation of small arms and improvised explosive devices.

“Twelve Indians die every day due to gun violence.... In the Northeast state of Manipur alone, over 20,000 women have been widowed owing to gun violence. Concerned by the suffering and the rising armed violence as well as weaponisation in India, a group of determined citizens founded the Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI)... on the 10th of September 2004 in New Delhi,” the website says.

Nepram said Manipur and the wider Northeast had been “awash with guns for a very long time” because of insurgency and gun-running through its largely porousborder.

A police source said the looted arms would “only pose” a huge security challenge to them if these were not recovered at the earliest.

About 36,000 security forces personnel are involved in maintaining law and order in Manipur.

“Security personnel can’t concentrate much on the recovery of arms at this stage but action is being taken based on specific information. We have to guard against precipitating the law-and-order situation,” a source said.

“Normality and weapons recovery are directly proportional. Recovery will pick up pace once the situation normalises. There has to be relative peace for at least 7-10 days,” the source said.

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