While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren appeal for peace in Manipur in their speeches on 77th Independence Day of India, Kuki-Zomi militants clad in combat uniform and some wearing bulletproof jackets, marched in the Independence Day parade at Churachandpur with assault rifles and an array of bolt action rifles send shockwaves.
Addressing to the citizens from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 77th Independence Day of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, reiterating what he said in his reply to the opposition INDIA Alliance’s no-confidence motion, appealed for peace in violent-hit Manipur saying that people across the country stand with the people of the Northeastern State.
“The whole country stands with the people of Manipur. Peace is the only way to resolve all disputes. The Centre and the Manipur government are making every effort to ensure that peace returns to the State at the earliest,” PM Modi said.
“Since the last couple of days, reports of peace have been coming in. India is with Manipur. The peace needs to continue and solutions will only be found through peace,” Modi said in his speech at the Red Fort on the 77th Independence Day.
Modi said, the women of Manipur have suffered much. “The nation is with Manipur,” he reiterated.
Moreover, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren made an ardent appeal for peace in the State and said the communities affected by the ongoing violence can live harmoniously by “forgiving and forgetting” and resume the journey on the path of development.
Manipur lost out on development for the last three months, he said in his Independence Day speech.
“The violence has killed over a hundred people. Thousands are homeless and hundreds of crores of properties have been destroyed. The violence will not bring any development. If there was any misunderstanding and miscommunication among the communities, we can sit across the table and discuss all the shortcomings,” he said.
“For this, our door is always open,” he added, in a message to the warring Meitei and Kuki groups to bury their differences.
Chief Minister Biren said his government has been strictly following the constitutional provisions to continuously work for the betterment and uplift of the hills and valleys of the State. “However, some vested interests and forces from outside tried to destabilise our peace-loving State and country,” he said, asserting that his government would never go against the constitutional obligation.
While appealing to the people of the State to avoid violence, he said that his government would continue to wage the war against drugs; and detect, detain, and deport all illegal immigrants. “This should not be seen as against any individual or community,” he insisted.
Further, Chief Minister Biren in his 77th Idepedence Day speech in Imphal said that certain misunderstandings, actions of vested interests and conspiracies of foreign nationals trying to destabilise the state led to the widespread violence that claimed hundreds of lives and resulted in the loss of properties.
Chief Minister Biren reiterated that the war against drugs was not undertaken targeting any particular community or persons, it was a holistic approach to save the lives of the youths and to protect the state and the country.
When the widespread deforestation was started for illegal poppy cultivation, the government could not remain as a wooden doll or a mute spectator, the Chief Minister said, adding that to wipe out illegal drug trade the State government has started taking action for the betterment of the State and its people.
“Manipur is the gateway of the country against the illegal trades of drugs and narcotics from the Golden Triangle. The large-scale deforestation for the illegal poppy cultivation has also affected the environment and the water resources of the State.”
Like other states of the country, the war against drugs was initiated during the last part of 2018 as drug menace was affecting over one lakh people in the State, especially the youth, he stated.
Meanwhile, the scale of violent attack on Meitei villages at the foothils appears declining after the Union Home Minister’s appeal to the Kuki-Zomi leaders.
However, the show of arms of the Kuki-Zomi militants at the 77th Independence Day of India at Churachandpur Public Ground has evoked concern and condemnation in equal measure from the peace-loving people.
Kuki-Zomi militants, they claim as ‘Village Defence Forces’, clad in combat uniform and some wearing bulletproof jackets, marched in the Independence Day parade at Churachandpur Public Ground with assault rifles and an array of bolt action rifles. The video of the parade has gone viral in social media. The march-past by well-armed Kuki-Zomi militants at Churachandpur has sent shockwaves.
According to security experts, some of the Kuki militants were seen carrying highly lethal (German-made) Heckler & Koch MP5 rifles, while a few were carrying folded AK 47s. Also, the bolt action rifles that were being carried by the Kuki-Zomi militants fall in the prohibited bore category. Possession of all these weapons is illegal.
Meanwhile, state authorities have taken up the issue with the Assam Rifles which is mandated to oversee security in the hills, reports said.
Lt Gen (Retired) Laiphrakpam Nishikanta Singh, who served 40 years and headed Indian Army’s Intelligence Corps, said that the participation of armed Kuki militants in the Independence Day parade was “shocking”.
Lt. Gen. (Retired) Nishikanta posted in his ‘X’ (formerly Twitter), “Shocked to see participation of fully armed Kuki militants in Independence Day parade at Churachandpur. Only security forces display weapons on parade.”
Even if it’s wooden guns, wearing combat fatigue, aggressively showcasing in national day parade is clearly intimidation.
Should we allow volunteers of private armies like Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena or Dera Saccha Sauda, etc, also take part in national day parades, asks Lt. Gen. (Retired) Nihikanta.
Lt. Gen. (Retired) Nishikanta asks, “What has the Unified Command done about this open display of deadly weapons – toy gunas Kuki claims? If others too form such militia, will they be also allowed to display their illegal might in national parades? Will we allow ‘Ranbir Sena” or ‘Bhim Army’ etc to do similar act.”
But the Indepedence Day parade at Churachandpur was not the first time that Kuki-Zomi militants proudly displayed the sophisticated weapons in their possession.
A number of videos of Kuki-Zomi militants armed with highly sophisticated weapons guarding Kuki villages have been circulated in social media. There are also videos of Kuki-Zomi militants providing arms training to children, some as young as six and seven years old.
Some of these militants are armed with sniper rifles like the Barrett M22 ASR (advanced sniper rifle) used by the US Special Operations Command. The US-made M22 ASR is also used by Special Forces of Israel, Norway, New Zealand, and has been supplied to Ukraine as well, reports said.
Lt Gen (Retired) Laiphrakpam Nishikanta Singh added, “… Kukis sending a message – can get away with anything. Meiteis have to trust in Governmet but better be prepared to fight with whatever they have.”
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren appeal for peace working towards a solution, Kuki-Zomi militants send shockwaves showing their firepowers.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics