All 10 Kuki MLAs, including eight belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, in Manipur on Thursday accused the state police of molesting women and assaulting people belonging to their community.
The accusations came two days after Manipur Police’s Sub Divisional Police Officer Chingtham Anand was shot dead by suspected Kuki militants in the state’s Moreh town bordering Myanmar. The police have launched an operation to find and arrest the people behind the killing.
In their statement, the MLAs said while they condole the officer’s death, they wanted to highlight the “unprofessional conduct and inhumane excesses” of the Manipur Police, particularly the commandos, against Kuki-Zomi-Hmar civilians in Tengnoupal District, especially in Moreh.
It accused the commandos of destroying houses, properties and vehicles of the residents of the Sinam Kuki village in Tengnoupal on Wednesday.
“In the operations that are underway at Moreh, the state forces resorted to arson, indiscriminate firing, looting of civilian properties, vehicles, household items, including valuable ornaments/documents/gold/cash and unprovoked brutality forcing common people, including women and children to flee into the nearby jungle,” the statement said.
It added: “Several women have been mercilessly assaulted/molested by the commandos and admitted in the local hospital.”
The MLAs said that the state police may be trying to arrest those responsible for the officer’s death, but they cannot condone their “unrestrained illegal and barbaric activities”.
“The lack of faith that our people have in the state forces stemmed from the innumerable instances of their direct involvement in attacking Kuki-Zomi-Hmar villages during the current conflict,” they said.
The legislators said they have been voicing their concerns at various forums, including the Centre, against the deployment of Manipur commands and called for their removal from Kuki -Zomi-Hmar-dominated districts.
They said that despite their appeals, more commandos have been despatched to Moreh that has resulted in fresh disturbances and violence.
“We appeal to the MHA [Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India], to intervene into the matter at once and ensure withdrawal of all the commandos deployed in Moreh and other Kuki-Zomi-Hmar tribal areas and replace them with neutral central forces,” the MLAs said. “Further, we demand that all erring state police/commando personnel should be booked as per law.”
Tengnoupal district’s Superintendent of Police Luikham Lanmiyo told Scroll that some cases of harassment and ransacking of properties have been reported. “But no incidents of molestation of women have happened,” Lanmiyo said.
The recent flare-up in violence comes as the state continues to reel from ethnic conflict between the Kukis and the Meiteis that broke out on May 3. The violence had ensued after thousands of people participated in a protest march to oppose the Meitei community’s demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list. Over 200 people have been killed in the state in the ethnic conflict and nearly 60,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes.