Weapons, ammo, police vehicles looted in Imphal mob attack

Weapons, ammo, police vehicles looted in Imphal mob attack

Around 700 armed miscreants attempted to storm a police camp, and snatched eight sophisticated weapons, over 600 rounds of ammunition, and over half a dozen vehicles from multiple police locations in Imphal on Wednesday evening, according to details accessed by The Hindu.

Three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were injured as they tried to stop the miscreants from looting weapons at the 1st Manipur Reserve Battalion camp. A police source said that three of the eight looted weapons, including AK-47 rifles, have been recovered and that raids are continuing to arrest the accused persons.

Mob attack

Security forces fired tear gas shells and live rounds in the air to disperse the mob, which came mounted on SUVs, according to an internal report prepared by one of the security agencies and accessed by The Hindu.

The mob destroyed computers at the police control room and ransacked several other offices of the police, including those of the Narcotics Affairs Bureau, Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence), Inspector General of Police (Prisons), and the Superintendent of Police (Prisons). They also fired at the office of the Criminal Investigation Department. The vandalism continued from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

“A numbers of perpetrators have been arrested and the law will take its own course. Yesterday’s attempt to loot arms and ammunitions at 1st MR (Manipur Reserve) Battalion by armed miscreants was repulsed by combined Security Forces effectively,” the Manipur police posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. “In case they attempted such misadventure in future, they may have to pay heavy price,” it added.

Weapons, equipment looted

The police source said that though there were other incidents of weapons and vehicles being snatched from other locations, the main armoury could not be breached. The report said that bullet proof plates, tear gas guns and wireless sets used by the police were also looted.

More than 5,000 weapons and lakhs of rounds of ammunition have been looted from police armouries in Manipur since the ethnic conflict between the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities erupted on May 3. Despite multiple warnings by the State government, only a little over 1,400 weapons have been recovered so far.

Another police source said that Aarambai Tengol, a vigilante group, had been posting provocative messages on social media in the past few days.

Seeking army protection

Meanwhile in Moreh, hundreds of Kuki-Zo women and children huddled outside the camps of the Assam Rifles and the Border Security Force, fearing violence after a 15-year-old girl was allegedly physically assaulted by Manipur police commandos on Wednesday night. The girl’s family filed a police complaint against the unidentified commandos on Thursday.

“After the news spread that the police commandos had hit the girl, women and children rushed to the army camps fearing for their safety. In the combing operations in the past two days, men in police uniforms have ransacked homes and even looted church donation boxes. We want an assurance from the army that the combing operation will be done as per law,” a local resident said.

After a lull of a few weeks, tensions have erupted in Manipur again after Chingtham Anand Kumar, a sub-divisional police officer was killed in Moreh on October 30 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 a helipad, jointly by State force and BSF”, the State government said.

Rising tensions

The border town of Moreh has seen the displacement of its Meitei community. Fearing bias, Kuki-Zo residents have opposed the deployment of Manipur police commandos, stating that only Central security forces or the Army should be posted there. However, the State government has been sending additional teams of Manipur police to the border town for combing operations.

The police source said: “Moreh is part of Manipur and it is the mandate of the State government to deploy the State Police wherever it wants.”

After the officer was killed, additional police teams were rushed to Moreh. A few homes and vehicles belonging to the Kuki-Zo community were burnt down, the source added.

In another post on X, Manipur police said that on November 1, “during the search operations by security forces at Moreh, Tengnoupal district, 44 persons were detained by the security forces at Moreh, Tengnoupal district out of which 32 persons were found to be Myanmarese/Burmese. Further, 10 Myanmarese citizens from Moreh were taken to Foreigner Detention Centre, Sajiwa.”

The ten Kuki-Zo-Hmar legislators of Manipur appealed to the Union Home Ministry to intervene into the matter at once and ensure withdrawal of all the commandos deployed in Moreh and replace them with neutral Central forces.

The legislators said in a statement that while they condoled the loss of life of the police officer in line of duty and understand that the State police may be hard pressed to nab the culprits responsible, they cannot condone the unrestrained illegal and barbaric activities of the commando and State police personnel.

“In the operations that are under way at Moreh, the State Forces resorted to arson, indiscriminate firing, looting of civilian properties, vehicles, household items including valuable ornaments/documents/gold/cash, and unprovoked brutality forcing common people, including women and children to flee into the nearby jungle,” the statement said.

They said the lack of faith in the State forces stemmed from the innumerable instances of their direct involvement in attacking Kuki-Zomi-Hmar villages during the current conflict.

India and Myanmar have a free movement regime (FMR) upto 16 kilometres on either side of the border. Though Manipur government suspended the FMR post the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, people on either side who have shared ethnicity move freely across the porous and unfenced border.

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