3 Insurgents Arrested After Gunfight, Say Manipur Cops. They Are Village Volunteers, Say Kuki Groups, Hold Protest

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Weapons recovered by security forces from three insurgents in Manipur

Imphal/New Delhi:

Three members of an insurgent group were arrested after a gunfight in Manipur’s Kangpokpi district today, the police said in a statement. Three military-grade assault rifles and over 1,300 bullets were seized from them, the police said, adding they launched the operation based on information given by the anti-terror body National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Police sources told NDTV the security forces came under heavy fire, due to which they had to retaliate with “maximum restraint”.

The NIA has been looking into a transnational conspiracy by insurgents and terrorist groups to exploit the Manipur situation and spread terror in the state bordering Myanmar, where the junta is fighting pro-democracy insurgents.

Following the operation by a joint team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the state police, members of the Kuki tribes came out in huge numbers in protest against the Superintendent of Police (SP).

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The protesters demanded the security forces to release the three men, claiming they were “village defence volunteers”.

The police in the statement warned against spreading disinformation about the joint operation on social media.

Village Volunteers With Assault Rifles? What Cops Say

Police sources told NDTV the two AK series and a Myanmar-origin assault rifles seized from the three men indicate the suspects are not those who are commonly known as “village defence volunteers”, as the “volunteers” mostly carry licenced single-barrel guns, primarily for hunting. “The operation was based on NIA’s inputs. We are looking at many connected cases,” a senior officer said on phone from Kangpokpi, requesting anonymity. 

“Various unfounded allegations and inciting messages regarding the conduct of the operation are doing rounds in social media. It is hereby appealed to stop propagation of such fake messages. Postings of such baseless allegations upon the security forces and inciting the public wrongly in social media will face legal action,” the police said in a post on X.

The operation to arrest the three armed insurgents began at 3.30 am on Tuesday. The three arrested men have been handed over to the NIA, the police said.

“Security forces exercised maximum restraint in the conduct of the operation and acted in self-defence when they were fired upon by the armed militants and obstructed by civilians,” the police said.

Kuki groups have called a 12-hour bandh in protest against the action by the security forces.

The ethnic violence that began in May 2023 between the valley-dominant Meitei community and nearly two dozen tribes known as Kukis – a term given by the British in colonial times – who are dominant in some hill areas of Manipur, has killed over 220 people and internally displaced nearly 50,000.

Armed people on both sides call themselves “village defence volunteers”, a definition of the belligerents that has become the most controversial since nothing stops these “volunteers” from killing people under the insurance provided by “in self-defence”.

The general category Meiteis want to be included under the Scheduled Tribes category, while the nearly two dozen tribes that share ethnic ties with people in neighbouring Myanmar’s Chin State and Mizoram want a separate administrative carved out of Manipur, citing discrimination and unequal share of resources and power with the Meiteis.

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