After Cops’ Warning, Manipur Armed Group Arambai Tenggol Under Security Forces Scanner: Sources

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After Cops' Warning, Manipur Armed Group Arambai Tenggol Under Security Forces Scanner: Sources

Security forces patrol a road in Manipur (File)

Dimapur/New Delhi:

The people of Manipur should cooperate with the security forces in fighting armed groups that are exploiting the ethnic division in the state to carry out criminal activities, sources in the security forces told NDTV.

The appeal came a day after the Manipur Police in a strongly worded statement held the Meitei armed group Arambai Tenggol (AT) responsible for attacking a senior police officer in the state capital Imphal.

Members of the Arambai Tenggol call themselves “village defence volunteers”, in response to similar groups of the hill-majority Kuki-Zo tribes with whom the valley-majority Meiteis have been engaged in clashes since May 2023.

The AT enjoys wide support in the valley areas. Their supporters say the AT acts as a layer of defence in the absence of state forces in the foothills.

Sources in the security forces that are guarding “sensitive zones” near the foothills, however, have cautioned against what they called the “Arambai Tenggol’s false ideology” to mislead people for “personal gains”.

The Manipur Police, too, in a statement that was released to the media after a press briefing by two senior officers had said the AT is “engaged in many anti-social activities such as assaulting civilians, and snatching vehicles from the public and government officials.”

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“We must give peace a chance. The people of Manipur must understand there are armed groups who are using brute muscle power to scare them into submission,” a source in the security forces told NDTV, requesting anonymity.

“We have been appealing to the people of Manipur to help the security forces bring peace. Many armed groups have attacked the security forces by taking advantage of the ethnic violence,” the source said.

In September 2023, a former Assam Regiment soldier Serto Thangthang Kom was kidnapped and killed by an unidentified armed group. He was posted in Manipur’s Leimakhong with the Defence Service Corps (DSC). “He was on leave at his house in Imphal West at the time of incident,” the Indian Army’s Spear Corps had said in a post on X.

Two months later, an unidentified armed group kidnapped four people while they were travelling in an SUV from the hill district Churachandpur to Leimakhong, and killed them. The four were family members of an army soldier serving in Jammu and Kashmir. A fifth passenger, the father of the soldier, who was injured, managed to escape and was later airlifted by the army to Dimapur for treatment. He was eventually shifted to the base hospital in Assam’s Guwahati.

Sources said the body of the soldier’s mother has been found, and is being kept at a hospital. The authorities are working to take the body to Leimakhong, from where the body could be airlifted to Churachandpur for the last rites, sources said.

Tuesday’s attack on the house of a senior police officer in Imphal city was the latest in a series of cases in the valley areas involving the AT and possibly other armed groups, sources in the security forces said. Following the attack, the state had called in central forces including the army to Imphal city, from where the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA, had been removed years ago. This law allows the security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. The AFSPA is active in the hill areas due to presence of insurgents of several ethnicities along the border with troubled Myanmar.

“There is a need to make people aware about the dangers of falling into the propaganda trap of criminals who pretend to be working for society. The people should cooperate with the security forces to bring peace in Manipur,” the source in the forces said.

The clash between the Kuki-Zo tribes and the Meiteis has dragged on for 10 months now. Over 200 have died in the violence and thousands have been internally displaced.

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