A Manipur minister, L. Susindro Meitei, has installed a drop box at his residence in Khurai, Imphal East, inviting people to return the weapons looted or snatched from the police during the current unrest.
An 8ft by 4ft banner put up in front of the drop box — which is four feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide and five feet tall — says: “Please drop your snatched weapons here” and “Feel free to do so”.
Mobs snatched more than 4,000 weapons from the police in two waves in the hills and the valley since the violence began on May 3. Of these, only about 800 have been returned.
“This (drop box initiative) was done because people are scared to go to the police. They are coming here and dropping the weapons freely, with no questions asked,” a resident of the locality said.
“The drop box is open 24x7 and its keys are with the police, who collect the returned weapons from time to time. Till Friday, about 120 weapons have been returned.”
The resident said it was very important to get the weapons back, or else those possessing them might go on to become militants.
Susindro installed the drop box around May 17 after Union home minister Amit Shah asked Manipur MLAs and ministers to help the administration recover the weapons snatched from the police.
The initiative became widely known only after news of it began circulating on social media on Friday evening, an Imphal resident said.
Sources said the minister — a two-time MLA — had before taking the initiative discussed the matter with clubs and citizens in his constituency.
The stolen weapons have become a worry for the security forces and the administration in their efforts to restore peace.
While Meitei organisations and citizens accuse Kuki rebels that have a Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the government of fuelling the unrest, Kuki organisations blame Meitei militants and mobs. Both communities have suffered in the conflict despite the heavy presence of central forces.
On Saturday, Assam chief minister and Northeast Democratic Alliance convener Himanta Biswa Sarma made a daylong stock-taking trip to Manipur. He met Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh and several civil society organisations.
Athouba Khuraijam of the Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity said a team from the organisation met Sarma who, he said, appealed for peace. Sarma is likely to visit Churachandpur district soon.
The Manipur government on Saturday extended the suspension of Internet services till June 15.
Internet services have been suspended in Manipur since May 3, the day the violence started after a solidarity rally in the hill districts opposing the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
Tension had, however, been building since February over the government’s eviction drive in forest areas. Kukis said the drive targeted their community while the government maintained that it was not community-specific.
The violence has left over 100 people dead and affected another 45,000 from both the Meitei and Kuki communities.