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Troubled Manipur will boost smugglers and fringe elements

Even as fresh violence has been registered in Manipur, 10 Naga MLAs from the state reached the National Capital a day before their meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday. It is pertinent to mention that the Outer Manipur MP Lorho Pfoze from the Naga People’s Front (NPF), a BJP ally is present with these 10 MLAs. It may be recalled that the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on June 1 had announced that a probe committee led by a retired High Court judge would investigate the recent violence in Manipur that killed around 75 people and left many injured. He said the reasons behind the violence would be probed. Shah also held a press conference before his four-day visit ended and also announced several measures for the strifetorn state. He also visited and met victims from both the communities of Meitei and Kuki. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Kuki-Zomi as well as Meitei villages were burnt and a battle raged between the Manipuri commandos and insurgent groups of the Kuki-Zomi, according to Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. Insurgent groups that come under the Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the Centre and the state government have, however, denied their role in the violence. They, however, also hinted that “village volunteers” who defend their areas and land from aggression or attacks “have been affected”. One disturbing fact is that if Manipur’s law and order breaks down, it will spell a boon for smugglers across the border. The recurring violence in Manipur is only going to be detrimental for the peace parleys to settle the issue. Every time, fresh violence will keep derailing the truce process. The more the law and order in Manipur gets fragile, the fringe elements will get more active and this will promote smugglers, including those who transport drugs and are active in the region. It may be noted that the state shares a porous international border with Myanmar. However, the Kuki National Organisations (KNO), an association of several Kuki insurgent groups in the area, have made it clear they are willing to go ahead with the peace talks with the Centre.

It is pertinent to mention here that a NAB department report says that 963 drug traffickers, including 195 women, were arrested under the NDPS Act between April and June 2019. The state said that around 3,716 acres of illegal poppy plantation and 5.51 acres of cannabis were destroyed as part of its ‘war’ on drugs. This would have cost around Rs 260 crore. The destruction drive is mostly conducted by joint teams of the Manipur Police, Assam Rifles and the Narcotics Department, and at various times, civil society organisations and student unions also take part in such drives. A direct battle between the insurgent groups and security forces has not been seen in the Northeast, in the remaining states, for decades. Needless to mention that the violence has also led to a massive exodus. It is high-time and unless the Centre involves itself and takes fast and decisive action, things will only worsen the law and order situation in Manipur. Meanwhile, in Delhi, intellectuals and social activists from the Naga community also gathered on Monday morning in a bid to meet Shah. Although the Naga community has not been involved in the violence, which was primarily between the Meiteis and tribal Kukis over the possible ST status for Meiteis, its representatives requested a meeting with Shah when he visited the state. The civil society members from the Kuki-Zomi community have been pressing for a “separate administration” following the violence. It may be recalled that the Nagas and the Kukis share a hostile relationship since the colonial era and have also had clashes due to ethnic reasons. The Kuki insurgency had gained momentum after ethnic clashes with Nagas of Manipur in the early Nineties, with the Kuki arming themselves against Naga aggression. Altogether, 115 Kuki men, women and children were believed to have been killed by the NSCNIM in Tengnoupal in 1993 — a day still marked by the Kukis as ‘black day’. All stakeholders, in the interest of the region and for the country must come together to find an amicable situation and cannot allow Manipur to be stuffed into a pressure-cooker like situation.

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