Second Commando Dies In Violence In Manipur's Moreh, On Myanmar Border

Manipur Police commandos came under heavy fire this morning, with attackers also using RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades, sources told NDTV.

Moreh is a key trading town on the Manipur-Myanmar border.

New Delhi:

A second Manipur Police commando has died amid renewed violence in Moreh, a small but significant trading town located a few hundred metres from the Myanmar border. Two other commandos, both critically injured, have been airlifted to state capital Imphal for treatment.

The commando who died late Wednesday was Takhellambam Saileshwore, sources told news agency PTI, while the first was named by Manipur Police as 32-year-old Wangkhem Somorjit Meetei.

The commandos came under heavy fire this morning, with attackers also using RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades, sources said. The commandos returned effective fire but the presence of protesters made the situation volatile even as the attackers continued firing, sources added.

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Also, an elderly woman was reportedly injured, but the circumstances of her injury are unclear.

Visuals showed armed attackers pushing back a security forces truck as it tried to enter Moreh.

The violence comes around 48 hours after police arrested two Kuki tribals for their role in the October killing of a police officer, Chingtham Anand Kumar, triggering massive protests by Kuki-Zo groups.

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Moreh-based civil bodies, including Kuki Inpi Tengnoupal, condemned the arrest. Kuki tribes have accused Manipur Police of attacking their members - an allegation the cops have denied - and have demanded that central security forces replace state security personnel currently in the area.

Hundreds of people from Kuki tribes took to the streets of Moreh today to demand the release of the men who were arrested, one of whom is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

READ | Man Accused Of Killing Manipur Cop is BJP Leader; Party Expels Him

Meanwhile, during today's attack several houses, and two schools, were damaged, either in the RPG strikes or arson-related incidents, leading to an unexpected but welcome sign of cross-border friendship - a fire engine from the Myanmar side rumbled across the border to help douse the blaze.

The Indian town of Moreh and Tamu on the Myanmar side are separated by less than half a kilometre.

The area, largely flat, is still remote and access to government services have been made more difficult than usual because of violence in the area. The aid by the Myanmar side has been seen a neighbour answering a call for help, and made possible because of the Free Movement Regime, or FMR.

READ | "If There Was Border Fencing...": Manipur Chief Minister's Myanmar Jab

The FMR - implemented in 1970 and revived by the Narendra Modi government in 2016 as part of its 'Act East' policy - allows hill tribe members from either India or Myanmar to cross the border with fewer checks than are normal when crossing international borders.

In the spotlight after ethnic violence in the state, with Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh among those most vocal in calling for it to be scrapped and the border to be fenced, the FMR will be scrapped soon, a senior government official told PTI this month, adding a fence will be built by 2029.

Tensions between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis have simmered for eight months, with the clashes having claimed over 180 lives so far. The state says it is trying to quell an insurgent uprising in Moreh, but the Kukis have accused it of trying to occupy the area.

With input from agencies

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