Manipur Asks Centre For Choppers; Commando Killed, Protester Injured In Border Town Moreh Violence

Manipur Asks Centre For Choppers; Commando Killed, Protester Injured In Border Town Violence

Fresh violence broke out in Manipur’s border town Moreh today

Moreh/Imphal/New Delhi:

The Manipur government has asked the Centre to send helicopters to the state capital Imphal on a day fresh violence broke out in the border town Moreh.

In a letter to the Home Ministry, the Manipur government said the helicopters will come in handy to evacuate injured people from Moreh, and to send reinforcements and ammunition to the India-Myanmar border town where police commandos are fighting suspected insurgents.

There is a high risk of ambush on reinforcements sent by road to Moreh, sources said, pointing to several attacks by suspected insurgents in recent months.

A police commando, Wangkhem Somorjit, was killed in action today. He was with the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), attached to the police commando unit in Moreh.

Commandos under attack

The police commandos came under intense gunfire this morning, including attacks using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), sources said. The commandos returned effective fire, but the presence of numerous protesters on the open roads made the situation more volatile as gunfire from the attackers continued, they said.

A school and other structures have been set on fire in the border town, 110 km from Imphal.

Hundreds of people from the Kuki tribes came out on the streets in Moreh today, demanding the release of two men from their community who are in police custody over the killing of a senior police officer on October 31, 2023.

Woman injured

An elderly woman was injured in the violence today, local reports said. Sources said the circumstances under which the woman got injured is unknown. The security forces, however, are expected to give a statement later on this, sources said.

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The protesters have also been demanding the Centre to remove the state forces from Moreh, which comes under the hill district Tengnoupal.

The women’s wing of the Kuki civil society group Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) held a sit-in today demanding the release of their leaders Hemkholal Mate and Philip Khaikholal Khongsai, who were arrested in the murder case of police officer Chingtham Anand Kumar.

In the protest today, Kuki Women’s Union for Human Rights leader Ngaineikim Haokip alleged Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh does not recognise the Kuki tribes as the people of Manipur. “… So he has no right to interfere in the affairs of the hills, which belong to the Kukis,” she said, and asked the protesters to remain steadfast in their demand for a separate administration carved out of Manipur.

The Kuki civil society group in a statement said it has requested the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take up cases of alleged rights violation by state forces in Moreh.

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Tensions between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis have been lingering on eight months since clashes broke out between the two communities over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies.

Over 180 people have died in the violence, and thousands have been internally displaced. The two communities are sharply divided now, with people from either community not going to areas where those from the other community live.

The Manipur government maintains it is trying to uproot insurgents from the strategic border town, while the Kuki tribes in Moreh – a stone’s throw away from Myanmar – have alleged the government wants to occupy the area before a political dialogue has even started on how to end the Manipur violence.

At least 25 Kuki insurgent groups have signed the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement with the centre and the state government. The insurgents are housed in designated camps. Ever since violence broke out in May last year, there have been allegations that full attendance at many of the SoO camps has not been observed.

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