Assam Rifles refutes allegations amid Jiribam unrest

The recent turmoil in Jiribam has reignited ethnic tensions in Manipur, sparking blame among factions and highlighting the role of the Assam Rifles amid a complex political backdrop.

‘More than a blame game healing hands are the need of the hour’

The recent turmoil in Jiribam has reopened old wounds and deepened existing tensions in Manipur. Instead of seeking reconciliation, various factions have resorted to blaming each other, with the Assam Rifles once again at the center of controversy. While the root cause of the violence appears to be ethnic divisions, exacerbated by past incidents, it has quickly evolved into a political dispute with multiple parties pointing fingers.

Last week, tension engulfed residents of Jiribam district following the discovery of Soibam Saratkumar Singh’s body, a Meitei farmer missing for weeks. This discovery led to protests outside the Jiribam police station, with locals demanding the right to arm themselves for protection. In response, the Jiribam District Magistrate imposed a district-wide curfew to restore order.

The situation escalated further when armed miscreants attacked not only civilians but also the security team accompanying Chief Minister N. Biren Singh en route to Jiribam district. This incident raises serious concerns about the state’s security arrangements.

In the aftermath of the violence in Jiribam, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) accused the Assam Rifles of complicity. COCOMI alleges that the Assam Rifles adopted tactics similar to those used in Serou and Moreh, allowing Kuki militants to target Meitei houses in Jiribam. Additionally, COCOMI claims that the Assam Rifles obstructed additional state forces dispatched from Imphal.

However, the Assam Rifles, tasked with counter-insurgency operations and border security with Myanmar, vehemently denied these accusations. They emphasized their impartiality and commitment to protecting all civilians, citing instances of rescuing trapped civilians and facilitating their evacuation to Internally Displaced Personnel (IDP) camps in Jiribam. The Assam Rifles reiterated their collaboration with other security forces to restore normalcy and safeguard residents.

Meanwhile, according to local news media reports the women’s wing of COCOMI and female vendors of the Ima Keithel urged state officials to intervene urgently. Ethnic tensions have escalated, prompting fervent appeals for resolution.

Despite the targeted attack on the chief minister’s convoy, concerns persist about the government’s response. Accusations against the Assam Rifles for relocating Jiribam residents and enabling militant attacks have heightened tensions. Some, like Thingujam Rani, secretary of Khwairamband Keithel Sinba, criticized the central government for allegedly neglecting the interests of the Meitei community.

The protracted ethnic conflict in Manipur has entered its second year with no resolution in sight. The escalating violence and accusations underscore the urgent need for comprehensive intervention to restore peace. Efforts must be intensified to address grievances, promote dialogue, and ensure the protection of all communities in Jiribam and across Manipur.

Surprisingly, the police failed to prevent these incidents despite prior intelligence inputs. The violence has displaced many residents, with at least 600 seeking refuge in Assam’s Cachar district over the past four days. Cachar Superintendent of Police, Numal Mahatta, assured that additional forces have been deployed along the Assam-Manipur border to maintain law and order.

Demanding action against top police officers, BJP MLA Rajkumar Imo Singh emphasized the need for an inquiry into their lackadaisical attitude. Top government sources confirmed specific intelligence about possible incidents of violence in January.

The unrest in Jiribam highlights the urgent need for decisive action to restore peace and stability in Manipur. Locals of the Jiribam said that ‘more than indulging in a blame game the need of the hour are more healing hands.” Locals do not a repeat of what happened in Imphal and bordering areas with hill districts of Manipur in the past one year. For many it is enough and they want to get on with their lives. Thus, they want local organisations from across different communities to sit and discuss the most workable solution which will allow the different communities to coexist within the same space without any further animosity.

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