Manipur killing: Assam Rifles releases statement; cites attack from KRA cadres
The Assam Rifles major and three subordinates who have been booked for the murder of a 29-year-old Manipuri man had gone to his village on Friday night to “nab” Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) militants, an official statement has said.
The statement, released by the Press Information Bureau (Defence Wing), Imphal, late on Sunday evening claimed the paramilitary team had come under attack from KRA cadres and retaliated with minimum force.
However, a local community leader raised several questions about the statement, which was released almost 46 hours after Friday’s 9pm incident in Chalwa village, Kangpokpi district.
Kangpokpi police on Saturday registered a case against Major Alok Sathe, who led the operation, jawan Amar and two others under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intent) apart from Arms Act provisions.
The four personnel from the Gelnel outpost of Assam Rifles’ 44E company are accused of killing Mangboilal Lhouvum, a helper with a truck and a father of four.
The PIB statement said the security forces had launched the operation based on specific intelligence to “nab secretary of KRA along with 3-4 cadres in Kangpokpi district, Manipur”.
While the Assam Rifles team was making inquiries, KRA cadres and their accomplices “manhandled” one of the personnel and attempted to fire on the troops, the statement said.
Sensing imminent danger to their lives, the personnel reacted using minimum force, it added.
The KRA, formed with the objective of establishing a separate Kuki state, is one of several Kuki groups observing a suspension of operations (SoO) since a tripartite agreement in 2008 among the Centre, Manipur government and the outfits. In February, the agreement was extended to August 31 to ensure peace in the Kuki-inhabited areas of Manipur. Kangpokpi is a Kuki-dominated district.
While the operation in the village was in progress, a huge mob of local people “surrounded” the Assam Rifles’ Gelnel outpost and “resorted” to unprovoked violence and arson, the PIB statement said.
The mob “torched” two Assam Rifles vehicles, caused damage to the outpost and “disrupted” road communication for more than 24 hours, it said, adding that the security forces exercised restraint.
“The Indian Army has ordered an inquiry into the matter. Assam Rifles remains committed to maintaining peace and normalcy in the region,” the statement added.
The Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, is under the operation control of the army.
In a statement released to the local media on Sunday, the KRA denied that the dead man was its cadre and asserted it was adhering to the SoO ground rules.
Thangminlen Kipgen, general secretary of the Kangpokpi district unit of the Kuki Inpi, the apex body of Kuki communities, raised several questions about the official statement:
⚫ How could the Assam Rifles operation at Chalwa and the mob attack on the Gelnal outpost continue simultaneously?
“According to information I have, the Chalwa incident happened around 9pm and the mob attack around 10.30pm after news of the shooting spread,” he said.
⚫ How could there be a search operation for cadres of the KRA, which is observing the SoO? The authorities must make it clear whether it was a new KRA or a splinter group they were looking for.
⚫ Although the official statement talks about an operation and a mob attack, Assam Rifles representatives never once raised these issues at a meeting on Saturday where a four-point agreement was signed between civil society organisations, the paramilitary force and the Manipur government to calm tempers.
“Had they (Assam Rifles) been wronged, they should not have signed the agreement. But they were eager to sign whatever the CSOs demanded with minor modifications,” Kipgen, one of the signatories to the agreement, said.
Contacted for clarification, an Imphal-based army official said he only had the information available in the official statement. “If there is an update, we will communicate,” he said.
The FIR was registered at Kangpokpi police station on a complaint from the father of the dead man, Sehlam Lhouvum, who said Sathe and his three juniors were all in civvies during the search at Chalwa.
Mangboilal was “first treated (plied) with alcohol” and subsequently taken to the roadside and “lethally fired upon”, the complainant said. It added that villagers took Mangboilal to the local primary health centre, from where he was referred to the Kangpokpi district hospital. But he died on the way.
Chalwa village is about 90km from state capital Imphal and about 50km from the district hospital.