The Manipur government on Monday passed an order to replace the Assam Rifles personnel deployed at a crucial buffer zone between Meitei and Kuki-dominated areas with the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force.

The change in personnel has been ordered at a check point in the Moirang Lamkhai area on the road between Bishnupur district and the Kangvai village in Churachandpur district. Bishnupur is a Meitei-majority district while the latter is dominated by Kukis.

The immediate reason to replace the Assam Rifles was not known. However, the decision came after Meitei women activists, known as Meira Paibis, held several protests in the Imphal Valley on Monday demanding the removal of the paramilitary force, The Indian Express reported.

Chidananda Singh, the vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manipur unit, has also accused the Assam Rifles of “directly or indirectly supporting or helping one particular community”, India Today reported.

Also read: Feminist icons or violent vigilantes? The contentious role of Meira Paibis in Manipur’s conflict

The Assam Rifles, however, has denied that it was being withdrawn from sensitive areas, The Indian Express reported.

Responding to the decision to remove the paramilitary force from the check point in the buffer zone between Bishnupur and Churachandpur, an unidentified officer told the Hindustan Times that it was never manned by the Assam Rifles in the first place.

“A force which has saved members of both communities alike in the initial days of conflict, how can they be termed biased?” the officer asked.

In a separate incident, the Manipur Police have filed a first information report, alleging that on August 5, Assam Rifles personnel obstructed policemen from conducting a search operation against Kuki militants.

The police have charged the Assam Rifles under Indian Penal Code sections dealing with offences of disobeying law by a public servant, obstructing public servant from discharging duty, wrongful restraint, criminal intimidation and common intent.

Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes between the Kuki and the majority Meitei communities since May 3. At least 187 people have been killed, including 115 Kukis and 65 Meiteis. Nearly 60,000 have been forced to flee their homes.