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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 July 2024

Deep division: Editorial on the rift between Assam Rifles and state police amid Manipur violence

Manipur police has filed a FIR against the Assam Rifles, accusing it of helping Kuki rebels escape after killing three Meitei residents in a village. The army has rejected the accusations

The Editorial Board Published 11.08.23, 08:09 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

The violence in Manipur, now in its fourth month, took an even more ominous turn earlier this week when the state police filed a first information report against the Assam Rifles, accusing it of helping Kuki rebels escape after killing three Meitei residents in a village. The FIR alleges that the Assam Rifles, a Central paramilitary force that operates under the command of army officers, prevented Manipur Police from reaching the village in time to apprehend those accused of carrying out the killings. The army has rejected the accusations, calling them an attempt to malign the Assam Rifles. No matter what the truth of the events described in the FIR, the episode reveals how deep the divisions run within Manipuri society that has erupted in clashes in recent months. These differences now seem to have infected law enforcement and security agencies too. That is dangerous for the credibility of those entrusted by law to act impartially in bringing peace back to Manipur. Divisions within the security apparatus along such lines would also undermine efforts to calm the tensions in Manipur and set a worrying precedent for similar crises that are bound to challenge India in other parts of the country.

This is particularly so because the FIR captures grievances that have been simmering within Manipur Police and sections of Meitei society for weeks. The Bharatiya Janata Party's state unit has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for the Assam Rifles to be withdrawn from Manipur and replaced by another paramilitary force. However, this comes at a time when Manipur Police and the state BJP leadership have themselves been accused of brazenly partisan behaviour against the Kuki community. In such a polarised climate, it is difficult to ascertain whether the Central forces too have acted in a biased manner, or are simply being targeted for trying to counter excesses perpetrated by the state police. The lack of trust in Central forces preceded the current tensions. Soldiers of the Assam Rifles in particular, protected by the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, have faced serious allegations of human rights abuses in Manipur in the past. Those ghosts are now returning to haunt the force. The only way to break this cycle of violence and distrust is accountability and punishment for those in uniform who behave in a partisan manner. Bias only seeds more bias.

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