Manipur Police Warn Armed Group Arambai Tenggol After Attack On Senior Police Officer Moirangthem Amit Singh House

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Manipur Police Warn Armed Group 'Arambai Tenggol' After Attack On Senior Officer's House

Senior Manipur Police officers K Muivah and K Jayanta Singh in a joint media briefing

Imphal/Guwahati/New Delhi:

The Manipur Police have named an armed group whose members call themselves “village defence volunteers” as responsible for the attack on the house of a senior police officer in the state capital Imphal on Tuesday night.

Following the attack, the state 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.

The police in a statement on Thursday said members of the Arambai Tenggol, a Meitei youth organisation whose members face allegations of looting weapons from state armouries, “carried out a targeted attack” on the house of senior police officer Moirangthem Amit Singh, who along with his team had seized two stolen cars on Tuesday.

This was the first time the Manipur Police openly admitted to the involvement of the Arambai Tenggol, or AT, in a violent act.

Manipur Police commandos in a symbolic "arms down" protest against the attack on the police by Arambai Tenggol

Manipur Police commandos in a symbolic “arms down” protest against the attack on a police officer by Arambai Tenggol

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, where the Kuki-Zo tribes and the Meiteis have clashed the most.

“Police officers Moirangthem Amit Singh, P Achouba Meitei, and others have been working tirelessly and contributing to efforts to ensure law and order in the state,” the police said in the statement, condemning the attack at the officer’s house near Imphal East area.

The armed members of the Arambai Tenggol had also vandalised vehicles and a clinic that belongs to Mr Singh’s family, whose seven members are doctors, the police said.

“Officer Was Only Doing Duty”

Inspector Generals of Police K Muivah and K Jayanta Singh in a joint media briefing said the targeting of the senior police officer who was only doing his duty in tough conditions was “extremely unfortunate”.

“It is our appeal to the public to give maximum cooperation to the police. Civil society organisations should also understand the situation because if we are not able to perform, other security agencies have to come to our aid, and we have experienced all those things in the past decades, how it was like. We don’t want to return to the past,” Mr Muivah told reporters in Imphal on Thursday.

“If the civil police are not able to perform their duties due to lack of cooperation from the public, or obstruction by civil society organisations, then normally what happens, as in all other states, the central security forces have to automatically come in to help,” he said.

“That means the CRPF, the BSF, the Assam Rifles, the army, all have to come in to assist. And then resolve the situation in a way that may be far more undesirable, far more different than what the police would do in a normal situation,” Mr Muivah said, also referring to the Central Reserve Police Force, and the Border Security Force.

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The police in the statement that was released to the media after the briefing said the AT is “engaged in many anti-social activities such as assaulting civilians, and snatching vehicles from the public and government officials.”

“They are also involved in extortion from the public and traders. They are gathering false support from the public in the garb of protecting them, but are committing many anti-social and criminal acts. The public must not be misled, and instead cooperate with the Manipur Police in bringing peace and tranquillity in the state,” the police said in the statement.

To prevent law and order issues as a fallout of the violence in Imphal linked to the AT, the district magistrates in two Kuki-Zo tribes-dominated hill districts of Churachandpur and Kangpokpi, and two Meitei-dominated valley districts of Bishnupur and Thoubal have called in the army to help in maintaining law and order. NDTV has seen copies of the orders issued by the four magistrates.

When AT “Asked” Political Leaders To Work For People

The AT on January 24 called over 35 MLAs and other leaders to the Kangla Fort in the heart of Imphal, and made them take an oath to protect Manipur’s territorial integrity. The fort served as the seat of power of the Manipur kingdom before Independence, and so held a symbolic meaning for the Meiteis to keep Manipur intact for all communities amid the demand by the Kuki-Zo tribes for a separate administration carved out of Manipur.

The optics of the oath-taking event, however, drew criticism over the fact that a group that had taken up arms – whatever be their name – coerced elected representatives to obey them, sources in the Manipur Police told NDTV.

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The violence between the Kuki-Zo tribes and the Meiteis in the northeast state bordering Myanmar – which itself is struggling not to break into pieces as the junta has been surrounded by pro-democracy armed groups – has dragged on for 10 months now. The Kuki-Zo people share ethnic and familial ties with Myanmar’s Chin people. The key factors of the Manipur tensions include disagreements over sharing land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies.

“Police Ineffective In Protecting Us”: AT Supporters

The AT’s supporters in the valley say the police are ineffective in dealing with attacks by suspected Kuki-Zo insurgents in the foothills. Over two dozen Kuki-Zo insurgent groups come under two umbrella groups – the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), and the United People’s Front (UPF) – and these two have signed what is known as the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement with the Centre and the state government.

Broadly, the SoO agreement – reviewed every year – says the insurgents are to stay at designated camps and their weapons kept in locked storage, to be monitored regularly. However, insurgents who are part of the SoO agreement have been allegedly taking part in the Manipur violence, with many missing during attendance calls at their designated camps.

The Manipur assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution asking the Centre to scrap the controversial SoO agreement. The deadline for extension of the SoO agreement also ended on Thursday.

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“This decision comes in the interest of ensuring peace and security in the region,” Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who the Kuki-Zo tribes hold responsible for the Manipur violence, said in a post on X on Thursday.

Ten months since May 2023, the Kuki-Zo tribes accuse the Meiteis of razing their vacant buildings and occupying them in and around Imphal valley, while the Meiteis have pointed at entire localities of their community flattened and erased in the hill district Churachandpur.

Both sides accuse each other of atrocities. The Kuki-Zo tribes say their “village defence volunteers” have been repelling attacks by armed groups from the valley, who come to the hills across the “sensitive zone” with obvious intentions.

Both call themselves “village defence volunteers”, a definition of the belligerents in Manipur that has become the most controversial since nothing stops these “volunteers” from killing people under the insurance provided by “in self-defence”.

A similarity between the “village defence volunteers” of both sides is that they appear to be well-armed and well-equipped with modern battle gear. The security forces have frequently recovered Russian-origin AK and US-origin M series assault rifles, and gun models commonly used by both the junta’s army and pro-democracy insurgents in neighbouring Myanmar.

Over 200 have died in the violence and thousands have been internally displaced.

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