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Manipur: Fresh Bout of Public Unrest, Arrests and Arson; Internet Suspended in Churachandpur

Attacks have seen large mobs barge into police stations or armouries.
An image uploaded by Manipur Police, showing arms and ammunition purportedly recovered. Photo: X/@manipur_police

New Delhi: Arson, arrests and public unrest continue to haunt Manipur as internet services have once again been snapped by the state government in the Kuki-majority Churachandpur after a mob attacked the superintendent of police (SP) office in the border town on February 15.

Manipur Police, taking to X, has stated, “Mob numbering approximately 300–400 (people) attempted to storm the office of SP CCP today, pelting stones, etc. The security forces including the Rapid Action Force is responding appropriately by firing tear gas shells to control the situation. Things are under watch.” 

Additionally, Imphal-based The Frontier Manipur shared four photographs on February 16 morning to claim that the “Churachandpur DC (deputy commissioner) office was burnt down by Kuki militants”.

The Wire has not been able to confirm this news independently. 

According to Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), an umbrella body of the Kuki-Zo people, one person was shot dead by security forces and several were injured in the SP office incident. 

The public anger was due to the suspension of a head constable who belonged to the Kuki-Zo community. Siamlalpaul was posted at the Churachandpur police station. According to Imphal-based news reports, action against him was taken “with immediate effect” after a viral video clip featuring him was circulated. It allegedly showed him making a video with “armed miscreants sitting together with village volunteers” from his Kuki-Zo community. 

The suspension order issued by Churachandpur Superintendent of Police Shivanand Surve noted that Siamlalpaul was found culpable of “grave misconduct” in spite of being a “member of a disciplined force” under Rule 66, Part 3 of the Assam Police Manual. The order said a departmental inquiry could be initiated against him and that he could not leave the station without prior permission of the SP. 

The suspension order is said to have led the mob to storm the SP and DC offices in Churachandpur. The mob ended up vandalising the public offices.  

Six held for arms loot

Meanwhile, state police has arrested six persons in the arms looting incident that took place on February 13 at the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRBn) camp in Chingarel area of Imphal East district. 

Manipur Police’s post on X on February 14 said, “In connection with the incident of arms looting case of 5th IRBn, Chingarel, Imphal East by an unruly mob on the night of 13.02.2024, Manipur Police have arrested six persons on Wednesday (February 14) and they have been remanded to police custody by a judicial magistrate.”

The police also said, “Four Insas rifles, one AK Ghatak, two magazines of SLR, and 16 small boxes of 9mm ammunition looted from the IRBn camp have also been recovered.”

A PTI report, however, pointed out that the police did not mention from where the arms were recovered, or from where the persons were arrested.

The report said after the IRBn mob attack, “a large number” of village volunteers also attempted to barge into the Manipur Police Training College at Pangei in Imphal East district, located around 5 kms from Chingarel.

A state police’s statement on X had said, “On February 13, in order to repel violent mobs, including armed miscreants, trying to storm MPTC, Pangei, security forces resorted to the use of legal force. During the incident, one person succumbed to injuries and three persons sustained injuries.” 

The state government has also suspended seven IRBn personnel over the looting of arms and ammunition from the camp.

The Commandant of 5th IRB, Chingarel, Imphal East, H. Balram Singh in an order said the seven personnel have been “suspended with immediate effect and until further order,” an Imphal Free Press report said.

The report said this move too was taken under Rule 66 of the Assam Police Manual Part-3, and that a departmental inquiry may be initiated against them too for negligence and dereliction of duty. All suspended personnel have also been asked to not leave the camp without the prior permission of the station commandant. 

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