Manipur: Meitei Insurgents Resurface

On November 18, 2023, five newly recruited cadres of Kanglei Yaol Kanna Lup (KYKL) surrendered before the Assam Rifles at Pallel in Kakching District.

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Violence in Manipur [Photo: Special Arrangement]

On November 25, 2023, Police arrested one active cadre of People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) on charges of extortion from Imphal West District.

On November 22, 2023, two cadres of PREPAK-Progressive (PREPAK-Pro), Laisram Prem and Khumukcham Biren, were arrested in possession of arms and ammunition at Pishum road under the Singjamei Police station in Imphal West District. Two Light Machine Guns (LMG) with eight magazines, one 9mm pistol with a magazine, one wireless set and five mobile handsets were recovered from their possession.

On November 18, 2023, five newly recruited cadres of Kanglei Yaol Kanna Lup (KYKL) surrendered before the Assam Rifles at Pallel in Kakching District.

On November 16, 2023, militants triggered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the Saibol area of Tengnoupal District. The blast, which targeted Assam Rifles personnel who were conducting a regular patrol, followed a few rounds of firing by the insurgents. However, no casualties were reported.  An Assam Rifles officer stated, “Our troops were not injured because they were moving in a mine-protected vehicle.” The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claimed the attack.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 48 insurgency-linked incidents related to active Meitei groups – the PLA, and its political wing, the Revolutionary Peoples’ Front (RPF); the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and its armed wing, the Manipur Peoples’ Army (MPA); the Peoples’ Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and its armed wing, the “Red Army”; the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) and its armed wing, also called the “Red Army”; the KYKL; the umbrella Coordination Committee (CorCom); and the Alliance for Socialist Unity Kangleipak (ASUK) – have been reported in the state in 2023 (data till November 26). This includes two incidents of killing with three fatalities (one civilian and two terrorists), 43 incidents of arrest resulting in arrest of 65 cadres and two incidents of surrender in which 10 cadres have surrendered. There were 77 Kuki militants-linked fatalities (28 civilians, seven SF personnel and 42 Kuki militants), two cadres each of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) were killed in internecine clashes between these two groups, one civilian was killed by National Revolutionary Front of Manipur (NRFM). Identity of the groups involved in 57 fatalities (40 civilians,10 SF personnel and seven terrorists) could not be ascertained.

The prominent incidents related to these Meitei groups, in addition to those mentioned above, included;

  • January 4: Two UNLF militants, ‘major’ Yaiphaba and ‘captain’ Jirilakpa, were found dead at Vangli village in Churachandpur District.
  • August 26: A 30-year-old civilian, Khangembam Sanjoy Singh of Kumbi Municipal Council Ward No. 2, Setupur Maning Leikai, was shot dead by Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) at Khuga Wangma, under Kumbi Police Station, in Bishnupur District.
  • October 27: Security forces (SFs) and Manipur Police Commandos arrested five active cadres of KCP, S. Kabikanta (32), Ng Tangba (30), S. Nongpoknganba (22), Konsan Anao (26), and Mohammad Illiya Khan (30), during cordon and search operations at hideouts in Yaripok Yambem and Changamdabi Villages in Imphal East District.

Since March 2006, when SATP started compiling data on conflict in the Northeast, these groups have accounted for 4,171 such incidents (including those in 2023). These included 632 incidents of killing with 1,136 fatalities [139 civilians, 753 terrorists, 209 Security Force (SF) personnel and 35 in the Not Specified category); 3,487 incidents of arrest in which 4,808 cadres were detained; and 52 incidents of surrender in which 108 cadres surrendered.

The prominent incidents during this period, apart from those that took place in 2023, included:

  • November 13, 2021: PLA and Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) carried out one of the deadliest insurgent attacks near S. Sehken village under the Behiang Police Station, close to pillar number 43, on the India-Myanmar border, in Churachandpur District, in which the commanding officer of 46 Assam Rifles, Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife, six-year-old son and four personnel of the accompanying Quick Reaction Team were killed. Another five troopers were injured in the attack.
  • May 22, 2016: At least six personnel of 29 Assam Rifles, including one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were killed and seven other personnel were injured in an ambush laid by suspected militants belonging to CorCom at Hengshi village near Joupi under Tengnoupal Police Station in Chandel District.
  • June 4, 2015: Militants belonging to KYKL, KCP and the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) jointly ambushed a military convoy of the 6 Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army, killing at least 18 Army personnel and injuring 11, at a place between Paralong and Charong villages in Chandel District.
  • September 19, 2005: 10 SF personnel belonging to the Garhwal Rifles were killed in an attack by KYKL in the upper Ngaryan Hills range in the Bishnupur District of Manipur.

Significantly, in a notification dated November 13, 2023, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) stated, that the Central Government was of the opinion that these Meitei Extremist Organisations have been:

  • engaging in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India;
  • employing and engaging in armed means to achieve their aforesaid objectives;
  • attacking and killing the Security Forces, the Police and Civilians in Manipur;
  • indulging in acts of intimidation, extortion and looting of civilian population for collection of funds for their Organisations;
  • making contacts with sources abroad to influence public opinion and secure their assistance by way of arms and training for the purpose of achieving their secessionist objective; and
  • maintaining camps in neighbouring countries for the purpose of sanctuaries, training and clandestine procurement of arms and ammunition.
  • attacking and killing the Security Forces, the Police and Civilians in Manipur;

The notification concluded that the government had, consequently, decided to extend the ban on these Meitei groups along with all their factions, wings and front organisations, for a period of five years, with effect from the November 13, 2023. These groups were first banned on November 13, 2018. The November 13, 2018, UMHA notification reads,

It is necessary to declare the Meitei Extremist Organisations… along with all their factions, wings and front organisations as ‘unlawful associations’ with immediate effect.

Between the date of the initial ban and the date of extension, these insurgent organisations have been confirmed to be involved in 302 incidents, including 295 incidents of the arrest of 389 cadres, five incidents of killing with six fatalities (three civilians and three terrorists) and two incidents of the surrender of six cadres.

Moreover, since the outbreak of ethnic clashes between Meiteis and Kukis on May 3, 2023, Manipur has recorded at least 138 insurgency-linked fatalities (69 civilians, 51 terrorists, 17 SF Personnel and one in the NS category) in 68 incidents of killing (data till November 26, 2023). It is useful to recall that overall insurgency-linked fatalities had remained in double digits between 2013 and 2018 and in single digits between 2019 and 2022, with the exception of 2021, when there were 27 fatalities). During these periods, both 2020 and 2022 had recorded a low of seven fatalities each.

The ethnic violence itself had led to 175 fatalities, according to official data available till September 14, 2023. Moreover, on November 21, 2023, the Eastern Command Army Commander Lieutenant General Rana Pratap Kalita disclosed that, since the ethnic violence between Kuki and Meitei communities erupted in Manipur on May 3, “Out of weapons [looted], only 1,500 were recovered, but more than 4,000 arms are still out.” Moreover, less than five per cent of the 650,000 rounds of ammunition stolen at the peak of violence in May, have been recovered.

In such a situation and amidst wider allegations that the Manipur government is siding with the Meitei groups, the extension of the ban on these groups was necessary. It is, however, a setback to the Central Government’s plans for peace. On March 1, 2022, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had announced that the Government of India would talk with all the militant outfits in Manipur and resolve insurgency-related problems in the State by bringing all the cadres of the extremist groups into the mainstream. He had added,

There will be no fire at any Manipuri youth, no youth will go to jail. All the cadres of the extremist outfits would come into the mainstream and they would work for the development of Manipur and the country.

Earlier, on March 10, 2023, the Manipur government had decided to withdraw from the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with two Kuki militant groups – the Kuki National Army and the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA). The remaining 23 Kuki groups which had simultaneously entered into under SoO agreements in August 2008, remain under these agreements.

It is now imperative for the Governments – both Union and the State – to ensure that the ban is followed in letter and spirit and none of these insurgent groups are allowed to take advantage of the current chaos in the state. Any attempt to engage further in a politics of appeasement will prove detrimental to long-term prospects of peace in the region.

Afsara Shaheen

Afsara Shaheen is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, India

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