Imphal/Dimapur/New Delhi: Violence in ethnic strife-hit Manipur took a new turn when suspected militants fired upon a Manipur Police patrol contingent at Bishnupur district’s Tronglaobi, on Thursday. According to the police, at least one state police commando was killed, and four other policemen were injured in the attack.
A senior Manipur Police officer told reporters in the state capital, Imphal, that the policemen were attacked when they were carrying out an operation against Kuki militants in the Tronglaobi area. He said commando Heisnam Jiten was killed and four other policemen sustained bullet injuries in the attack. The officer gave no further details.
This incident followed reports of a Kuki militant attack on an Indian Army and Assam Rifles joint patrol party when they were carrying out an area-domination operation in Imphal East district’s Dolaithabi, on Wednesday. In that incident, an Assam Rifles soldier received a bullet injury, who was immediately air-evacuated to an Army hospital.
According to an Army official, militants fired a few rounds at the joint team and escaped from the area.
‘Operation Kohima Calling’
On May 10, the Assam Rifles, under the aegis of the Indian Army’s Dimapur-headquartered III Corps (also called Spear Corps), launched Operation Kohima Calling to evacuate stranded Naga people in the violence-hit Manipur. The operation was completed in two phases.
In the first phase, 676 Naga individuals were evacuated from the state and taken to safety, while in the second phase, 553 individuals were evacuated. Among the 553 evacuated in the second phase, there were 47 young women from the Konyak tribe, who were stuck in Manipur’s Yairipok town in Thoubal district. The Assam Rifles said its personnel went deep into the interiors of the district to evacuate these women.
They were all daily-wage earners working in a veneer-making factory in Yairipok.
Death toll reaches 64
According to latest reports, the death toll in the ethnic violence between the Meitei people and tribal groups, mainly Kukis, have risen to 64. This is despite the violence has ebbed significantly in the last two days due to the efforts of the security forces.
Latest reports say nearly 40,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Manipur due to the violence.
As India Sentinels reported earlier, tens of thousands of people were evacuated to safe locations from violence hit areas. Thousands of people have been moved to Army and Assam Rifles camps where they are being cared for with medical aid and relief materials.
Manipur withdraws from SoO
Following the May 10 Dolaithabi incident, the Manipur government has withdrawn from the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement. The government suspects that the militants who took part in the attack on the Army-Assam Rifles joint team in Dolaithabi were militants enrolled in the SoO scheme.
It may be mentioned that to bring peace and stability in Manipur, the Centre and the Manipur government signed a tripartite agreement with the Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups for suspension of operations to enable talks and formulating of a framework for resolving the insurgency.
The Zomi Revolutionary Organization (ZRO)/Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) was one of the first insurgent groups to sign the agreement in August 2005.
Under the SoO scheme, militants who give up violence are given a chance to rejoin the mainstream population by rehabilitating them in specially designated camps, where they are also provided vocational training among other things. As India Sentinels reported earlier, the Assam Rifles has been successfully running SoO camps in the state.
‘Prompt Army, Assam Rifles response averted large-scale violence’
Meanwhile, sources in the defence establishment said prompt response by the Indian Army and the Assam Rifles averted an even wider violence in Manipur than what the state has witnessed, so far. They said the Army and the Assam Rifles have become the first responders to distress calls. One of the sources told reporters that troops are answering to all seeking help without making any distinction between the communities. They are also reassuring the communities that the forces are there to protect them.
One source told reporters that as violence ceased in some affected parts of the state, some families who had been evacuated to the Army and Assam Rifles camps were now going back to their homes. However, thousands are still staying there waiting for the right time to move out.