The Central government is considering to withdraw the Rapid Action Force from violence-hit Manipur in a phased manner, The Hindu reported on Sunday.
An unidentified senior government official told the newspaper that the continuous exposure to the “anti-insurgency theatre” may not be suitable for the RAF, which is trained in crowd control and law and order duties, including agitation and communal incidents.
Over 200 people have been killed since the conflict broke out between the Meiteis and the Kukis in Manipur on May 3. Nearly 60,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes. The state has reported cases of rape and murder, and mobs have looted police armoury and set several homes on fire despite the heavy presence of central security forces.
Over 40,000 paramilitary forces or the Central Armed Police Force, including Indian Army personnel, are deployed in Manipur, according to The Hindu. Ten companies of the RAF are also present in Manipur, of which eight are in the valley districts and two in the hills.
In an internal report on July 6, a copy of which is available with Scroll, the RAF said that the majority of the force is unarmed and their deployment in Manipur is “exposing them as a bigger target for firearms of miscreants”.
The RAF said that it is trained to use minimal firepower and is meant to act quickly to diffuse situations with “minimal lethality”.
It also highlighted an incident of July 4 when an RAF unit was attacked with “glass balls, stones, sharp iron rods and petrol bombs” when they tried to stop a mob of around 3,000 persons from looting weapons from a police armoury in Thoubal. One person was killed in the incident.
The RAF said that two additional companies were dispatched to the incident spot around 4 pm, but they were stopped by a mob of Meira Paibis – a community of Meitei women that has been accused of involvement in the violence in the state.
The force said that one case of 7.62 bullet and one lever of a hand grenade was later recovered from the site, pointing out that the mob was using sophisticated weapons.
“This poses a threat to security forces particularly the RAF whose primary responsibility is for dealing with riots arising from agitations, bandhs and strikes of religious and communal nature and shall not be deployed in anti-terrorist counter-insurgency operations,” the RAF said in the report. “It is not structured and equipped to counter any insurgency situation. Use of TSMS [tear gas smoke shells] by RAF in such situations may be met with firing from within the mob which may result in loss of precious lives.”
The report also pointed out that senior police officers and magistrates remain absent at the scene of such incidents.
“Despite repeated requests magistrates are often unavailable or not provide at critical incidents,” the report added. “This demonstrates a significant insensitivity and lack of coordination with this district resulting in mismanaged crowd control and handling of serious conflicts.”