"Don't Just Watch; Act Too": Manipur Chief Minister To Central Forces

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh's comments came days after two police commandos were shot dead by insurgents in the border town Moreh

'Don't Just Watch; Act Too': Manipur Chief Minister To Central Forces

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh attends an event on the 52nd Statehood Day

Imphal/New Delhi:

Manipur Chief minister N Biren Singh today indicated the central forces are not doing enough to bring normalcy in crisis-hit Manipur. He said their roles are not only to protect lives and property by keeping an eye on the situation, but also to help contain violence.

"You (central forces) have not been invited to observe what is going on. You have been called to protect the integrity of the state, and lives and properties of innocent people," Mr Singh said at an event to celebrate the 52nd Statehood Day in the state capital Imphal.

The Manipur kingdom merged into India in 1949, and got statehood in 1972.

The Chief Minister's comments came days after two police commandos were shot dead by insurgents in the border town Moreh. Eighteen civilians have died in violence since January 1. Over 10 security personnel were injured during this period. The state government and the Centre face questions over why the Manipur crisis has been dragging on for eight months, despite the presence of numerous security forces.

Manipur Security Adviser Kuldiep Singh on January 18 said there is a possibility of insurgents from Myanmar attacking security forces in the border town Moreh, but there is no evidence yet. His comments came after two police commandos were killed in action in Moreh. The Security Adviser had confirmed the involvement of "Kuki militants" in the attack on state forces.

There are some 60,000 central security forces in Manipur, where ethnic clashes broke out between the hill-majority Kuki-Zo tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies.

Mr Singh thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah over the Centre's decision to end the free movement regime (FMR), fence the border with Myanmar, and carry out the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Manipur.

"These are the biggest gifts for the people of Manipur," the Chief Minister said.

FMR allows people from India and Myanmar to visit either side up to 16 km without travel documents. The Manipur government has been asking the Centre to remove the FMR, alleging insurgents from Myanmar, illegal immigrants, and drug traffickers have been misusing the FMR, and crossing over to Manipur to create trouble.

Mr Singh appealed to both the Meitei and the Kuki-Zo communities to stop attacking civilians and end violence "for the sake of humanity". He said he is ready for dialogue, but the state forces will deal with any challenge.

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The Chief Minister said the BJP government has been working for inclusive development across Manipur without any division between the valley and hills. He said there can be no peace and unity without equal development, and so the government has been developing infrastructure in the hills over the past five years.

"Unfortunately, the unwanted incidents of May 3 last year have stopped developmental work in some districts," Mr Singh said.

Kuki-Zo tribes allege hill areas neglected

The Kuki-Zo tribes have renewed their demand for a separate administration carved out of Manipur, calling the May 3 violence the last straw. They have alleged decades of neglect of the hill areas by a government that they see as dominated by Meiteis.

The Kuki-Zo tribes have been asking the Centre to remove state forces from all hill areas. In Moreh, where the two police commandos were killed, the tribes have alleged the state forces of harassing them and burning down buildings in the border town.

The Kuki-Zo group Committee of Tribal Unity (CoTU) has said the deployment of state police commandos in Moreh was devoid of sound logic and rationality as tension and suspicion are bound to surface if suspected "Meitei insurgents" are allowed to roam freely in areas dominated by the Kuki-Zo.

The Manipur Police has refuted CoTU's allegation as "baseless and misleading". "The allegation by COTU, Kuki Inpi Manipur... against security forces regarding collaboration with valley-based insurgent groups and Meitei militants disguised as security forces in Moreh is not true. Allegation is baseless and misleading," the police said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Over 180 have died in the ethnic violence and thousands have been internally displaced.