AFSPA has been extended by another six months barring 19 police stations falling under the Imphal valley.
Imphal: Several students were injured on Wednesday, September 27, after security forces fired several rounds of tear gas shells to disperse a stone-pelting mob in Imphal’s Moirangkhom, about 200 metres from the CM’s secretariat.
The students were participating in a rally which started from Hau grounds of the state capital protesting the kidnapping and killing of two youth, who went missing in July and whose photographs went viral on social media recently.
The students, raising slogans of “we want justice”, were heading towards chief minister Biren N Singh’s bungalow, officials said.
Lanthengba, a student leader leading the rally told reporters, “We demand that the killers of the two students be arrested within 24 hours and their bodies be recovered for their last rites. We also want to meet the chief minister to address our grievances. How can we continue with our studies when our friends and classmates are being murdered in cold blood.”
Police tried to cool down tempers by announcing that “arrangements are being made to allow student representatives to meet both the chief minister and the governor.”
— INC Manipur (@INCManipur) September 26, 2023
What has become in the land of #Manipur?
Hundreds of peaceful student protesters, seeking justice for our two Meitei students brutally murdered by #Immigrants #KukiMilitants, are facing tremendous violence and persecution from the police. Both the state and central govts remain… pic.twitter.com/Br01iu28OG
— Karnataka Meitei Association (@KarnatakaMeitei) September 27, 2023
However, the situation suddenly turned ugly and some students started pelting stones prompting the security forces including RAF personnel to fire several rounds of tear gas shells to disperse them, officials said.
This comes a day after a clash between RAF personnel and locals left 45 protesters, mostly students, injured.
AFSPA extended for 6 months
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA was extended by another six months barring 19 police stations falling under the Imphal valley and an area that shares its boundary with neighbouring Assam.
An official notification said the state government is of the opinion after analysing the prevailing law-and-order situation that it is not expedient to have detailed assessment on the ground as security agencies are preoccupied in maintenance of law and order.
“Now, therefore in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act… the Governor of Manipur hereby declare the entire state of Manipur excluding the areas falling under the jurisdiction of 19 police stations…as disturbed Area for a period of six months with effect from October 1, 2023,” the notification said.
The police station areas where the Disturbed Areas Act has not been imposed are Imphal, Lamphel, City, Singjamei, Sekmai, Lamsang, Pastol, Wangoi, Porompat, Heingagng, Lamlai, Iribung, Leimakhong, Thoubal, Bishnupur, Nambol, Moirang, Kakchin and Jirbam.
Significantly, the areas that have been kept out of the purview of AFSPA are dominated by the majority Meitei community which includes Jiribam, adjacent to Silchar valley of Assam.
With the extension of AFSPA, the Army and Assam Rifles cannot operate inside the areas under the 19 police stations without the consent of the state police.
Security officials have been advocating bringing the entire state under AFSPA so that they could easily ensure that the presence of terror groups within the valley is reduced or eliminated, sources said.
The security agencies have been warning that banned terror groups United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Kanglei Yawol Kanba Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and KCP have been forming their base in the Imphal valley of the state.
Kharge demands ‘incompetent’ CM be sacked
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the situation in Manipur and demanded that he sack the BJP’s “incompetent” chief minister as a first step to control the turmoil.
In a post on X, the Congress leader also said the northeastern state has turned into a “battlefield” because of the BJP and violence against women and children has been weaponised.
His remarks came after a clash broke out in the Singjamei area of Imphal on Tuesday night between RAF personnel and locals protesting the killing of two students, who had been missing since July 6. The security personnel lobbed tear gas shells and fired rubber bullets at the protesters and lathi-charged them, leaving 45 of them, mostly students, injured.
Manipur has been on edge since ethnic clashes broke out in the state on May 3, when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
“For 147 days, people of Manipur are suffering, but PM Modi does not have time to visit the state. The horrific images of students being targeted in this violence have once again shocked the entire nation,” Kharge said.
“It is now apparent that violence against women and children was weaponised in this strife. The beautiful state of Manipur has been turned into a battlefield, all because of the BJP,” he said.
“High time, PM Modi sacks BJP’s incompetent Manipur Chief Minister. This would be the first step to control any further turmoil,” Kharge said.
In a post on its official X handle, the Congress party targeted Modi, accusing him of not bothering about Manipur but his own image.
Violence has been going on in Manipur for almost 150 days, hundreds of lives have been lost in the state and thousands of families have been rendered homeless, it said.
“The recent murder of two students who went missing in July has shocked the entire country. The situation in the state is not improving. In such a situation, the BJP government of the state should be dismissed immediately.
“It is also clear that PM Modi is not concerned about the people of Manipur, he is only concerned about his image. He is just busy with campaigning for elections,” the Congress said in a post in Hindi.
Congress leader P Chidambaram said the situation in Manipur has gone from bad to worse and no section of people has confidence in the state government or Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
“In fact, the CM is the problem because of his incompetence and bias. The first step toward restoring normalcy in Manipur is to remove the government and the chief minister,” he said on X.
“I have learned that 2000 Meiteis staying in Senapati district were forcibly driven out the district. Ethnic cleansing has spread from the capital to the districts whether they are dominated by the Meiteis or the Kukis.
“The central government has switched off Manipur. It may have even lost count that 145 days have passed since the cycle of violence started on May 3, 2023,” he said.
The Congress has been targeting the government over the Manipur violence and asking why the prime minister hasn’t visited the strife-torn state yet.