The Assam Rifles based in Manipur have taken legal measures by issuing an official notice to Maheshwar Thounaojam, a Manipur politician, as reported on Monday. The alleged remarks were made during the “Condolence of Meitei Martyrs” event held in Delhi on June 30.
The notice is in response to what the paramilitary force claims were “derogatory remarks” made by Thounaojam about them. In the defamation notice, the Assam Rifles have called for a written and public apology from Maheshwar Thounaojam, who serves as the national secretary of the Republican Party of India (Athawale).
The Assam Rifles specifically seeked a retraction of Thounaojam’s statement, which accused them of assisting Kuki militants to destroy a village defense force. The legal notice requires Thounaojam to issue a public apology through prominent media outlets within 15 days of receiving the notice.
However, Thounaojam asserted that he would not issue an apology and emphasised his right to free speech within a democratic society.
“I did not deliver a statement; it was a question I posed,” clarified the politician. “My words were not those of a politician, but rather those of a Meitei. Among our Meitei community, it’s common knowledge how certain Assam Rifles officials engage with Kuki militants, and there exists evidence in the form of videos. I was merely restating something that’s universally understood by Meitei people.”
In a separate development earlier this month, 40 MLAs from Manipur appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging the replacement of select Assam Rifles battalions with “reliable Central forces” and units of the state police.
Prior to this, the Manipur government had issued a directive to substitute Assam Rifles personnel stationed in a pivotal buffer zone between Meitei and Kuki-inhabited areas with members of the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force. Earlier, on July 10, the Assam Rifles had filed a criminal case against COCOMI, a prominent Meitei civil society organization, after the group called on people “not to surrender weapons.”