IMPHAL: To grapple with the ongoing sectarian strife in Manipur, a crucial meeting was held between Chief Minister Biren Singh and Director General of Assam Rifles, Lieutenant General PC Nair, on August 12.
Announcing the strategic interaction via a post on a popular micro-blogging website, the Assam Rifles underscored the significance of this discussion and posted, “DG Assam Rifles Lt Gen PC Nair met Chief Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh on August 12 to deliberate on the security situation and matters concerning the Assam Rifles in Manipur.”
The context of the meeting was rooted in mounting allegations of partiality leveled against the Assam Rifles by Manipur BJP MLAs and various Meitei civil society groups. These claims of bias towards a specific community within the state have triggered outrage and exacerbated tensions.
This development closely followed the recent visit of Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita, the Commander of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, to Manipur. The Commander’s discussions with Chief Minister and state security advisor Kuldiep Singh revolved around comprehensively evaluating Manipur’s situation, underscoring the urgent need to address the ongoing turmoil.
The Assam Rifles have been positioned as a buffer between the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi dominated areas since ethnic clashes erupted in the state on May 3. However, the force has found itself embroiled in controversy, facing accusations of favouritism, especially from the Meitei community, leading to demands for its withdrawal from the state.
On August 9, in a memorandum to the PM, 40 legislators, majority of whom are Meiteis, urged for the transfer of Assam Rifles from their present location of deployment and advocated for their replacement by “trustworthy Central forces” to “neutralise and sanitise” all threats to peace, security and stability. A day later, in another memorandum to the Modi, the Kuki-Zo-Hmar MLAs asserted that the Assam Rifles did their work without prejudice or bias in Manipur.
Notably, the past 48 hours have witnessed no reports of widespread disturbances in the state.