A police officer was killed by suspected Kuki militants in strife-torn Manipur on Tuesday, prompting the N. Biren Singh-headed cabinet to order a joint operation with central forces till the culprits are arrested.
The state’s BJP government decided to move the Centre to declare the Churachandpur-based World Kuki-Zo Intellectual Council an “unlawful” organisation for predicting “another war” and calling for the stocking of arms.
Chingtham Anand Kumar, the sub-divisional police officer of Moreh under Tengnoupal district bordering Myanmar, suffered a bullet injury in the abdomen around 9.30am while he was inspecting the Eastern Shine School grounds for the construction of a helipad. The officer was airlifted to Imphal around 11.25am, but died soon after. His body has been kept at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences morgue in Imphal.
Reports from the ground suggested that the 1975-born Kumar, who hailed from Haobam Marak Chingtham Leikai in Imphal West district, was shot by a sniper.
The incident has once again fuelled tension in the state with a Meitei “joint action committee” against the killing of the SDPO refusing to accept the body till the killers were arrested.
With the killing of the Meitei police officer, the death toll in the ongoing unrest in Manipur has risen to at least 178, besides the displacement of over 67,000. The unrest involving the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities erupted on May 3. Chief minister Singh took to X to condemn the “cold-blooded killing” of the SDPO while promising that the “perpetrators will be brought to justice”.
Singh also convened an emergency cabinet meeting at 11am at the chief minister’s office in Imphal to deliberate upon the “emergent law-and-order situation” in the aftermath of the SDPO’s killing.
According to a statement issued by the chief minister’s secretariat, the cabinet noted that “both sides” in the ongoing ethnic conflict had been “exercising restraint”, leading to “peace for the past one-and-a-half to two months”.
While a “sense of normalcy was slowly settling in”, the SDPO was “killed today in unprovoked firing by armed Kuki militants while he was on duty overseeing the cleaning of the grounds of Eastern Shine School for construction of helipad, jointly by state force and the BSF”, the cabinet noted.
The cabinet approved an ex gratia of Rs 50 lakh and a government job for “the next of kin of the martyr” and also directed the launching of a joint operation in Moreh and adjoining areas “to nab the culprits”. The operation is to continue till the culprits are arrested. Additional police forces were rushed from Imphal to Moreh.
The cabinet also dwelt on the October 24 media release issued by the World Kuki-Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) saying that the Kuki-Zo community would in November, before the harvesting season, “face another war, and arms and ammunition should therefore be in sufficient stock”.
“It (the Council) further informed that the youth volunteers would be the ones going to face the war on the frontlines, and that its national army/ UG groups will join the youth volunteers only in critical situations, citing that this would be because Kuki National army/ UG groups would not be able to join the war freely in view of SOO (suspension of operations) agreement,” the statement issued by the chief minister’s secretariat said, adding that an FIR had been lodged against the organisation on Monday.