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Around 200 women and children from Bekra brought to Maheikhullen, Jiribam on June 7, 2024

Killing and Tensions in Jiribam: Is Jiribam Destined to be Another Churachandpur or Moreh or Kangpokpi?

After a lull of violence between the Kuki-Zomi militants and Meiteis during the recently concluded 18th Parliamentary Elections of India, killing and gun firing recur in some areas of Manipur.

While the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday, June 6, 2024, arrested another accused Thongminthang Haokip, a member of the Kuki National Front-Military Council (KNF-MC), for his allegedly in transnational conspiracy and violence in Manipur, the Jiribam District has been plunged into a tense situation after a 59-year-old man, Soibam Saratkumar, was allegedly killed and beheaded by unidentified miscreants oin the same day.

Kuki militants attacked Sekmai Nongthonband by firing guns and bombs at about 11:45 am on Friday (June 7) from the adjoining villages of Phailen Kuki and Luwangshangol Kuki. Trucks and labours who were quarrying sands and stones in Sekmai River ranaway from the area, reports said.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday, June 6, 2024, arrested Thongminthang Haokip aka Thangboi Haokip aka Roger from the Imphal Airport in the case it had registered in July 2023 related to an alleged transnational conspiracy by terror outfits based in Myanmar and Bangladesh to “wage war” against the Government of India by exploiting the current ethnic unrest in Manipur.

According to NIA statement, the key accused, Thongminthang Haokip, a member of the Kuki National Front-Military Council, KNF-MC, was allegedly involved in “attacks on security forces at various places during the ongoing insurgency and violence”. Thongminthang was also in touch with the Kuki National Front, Burma, KNF-B, Kuki militant group in Myanmar, over “logistics support” to aggravate the situation in Manipur and “create terror in the minds of the people”, the NIA added.

Thongminthang Haokip had been arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “He has admitted to have participated in several armed attacks against security forces and on the opposite group in the current crisis in the State. He has also admitted being member of KNF-MC and United Tribal Volunteers (UTV),” the NIA said in a statement.

The NIA also said its probe had revealed that Thongminthang Haokip had allegedly met the leaders of the KNF-B of Myanmar for the supply of arms, ammunition and explosives for use in the ongoing violent conflict between the Kuki-Zomi militants and Meiteis in the State, which has continued over a year now.

The NIA, based on its investigation so far in the case, alleged that the conspiracy had been hatched by Kuki and Zomi militants backed by “terrorist organisations” based in the Northeastern States and in neighbouring Myanmar with the aim to exploit the current ethnic unrest in the region and wage war against the Government of India through violent attacks.

The NIA said that further investigations are continuing to identify and track others involved in the conspiracy and scuttle the terrorist outfits’ plans to destroy the peace and stability of the Northeastern region.

It may be mentioned that, last year, the NIA had also arrested Seiminlun Gangte, 51, of Churachandpur district in the case as well, accusing him of being involved in an explosion that had taken place in June last year in Kwakta, a village in Bishnupur district neighbouring Churachandpur district.

Moreover, the NIA had also arrested Moirangthem Anand Singh, who belonged to a proscribed Meitei militant outfit, in another case registered by the NIA. This case alleged that Myanmar-based leaders of insurgent groups and the proscribed “terrorist organisations” were recruiting Over Ground Workers (OGWs), cadres and sympathisers to augment the strength for carrying out attacks on Indian Security Forces and opponent ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, the relatively calmer Jiribam District has been plunged into a tense situation after a 59-year-old man, Soibam Saratkumar, a resident of Sorok Atingbi Khunou of Jiribam District was allegedly killed and beheaded by unidentified miscreants.

Since the outbreak of violence in Manipur on May 3, 2023, Jiribam District had remained peaceful despite being home to various communities. However, this latest tragic incident has gripped the district with tension, leading to arson and fears of further violent communal conflict.

According to reports, Sharatkumar, along with his wife and son, had visited their farm at Jairolpokpi on Thursday (June 6) around 4 PM. While his wife and son returned home, Sharatkumar stayed behind to fix the farm’s fencing. When he did not return home and his phone was found switched off, his son then went back to search for his father and found Saratkumar’s abandoned two-wheeler and footwear were found near a CRPF camp at Uchathol, Jiribam, indicating his abduction from that spot. The son then went back to search for his father and found Saratkumar’s abandoned bike near the IRB training center. Then Sharatkumar’s wife and son along with concerned locals started to search for him.

Sadly, Saratkumar’s beheaded body was later discovered around 7:40 PM in a bush in the Nunkhal area, approximately four kilometres away from where he was abducted. His neck had been slit with a sharp tool. The news of Sharatkumar’s death ignited violence in Jiribam, leading to arson attacks. Meitei people in Mongbung Khul have abandoned their homes and are now sheltering at LP School in Chingdong-Leikai, Jiribam. One Meitei house in Nunkhal and a farmhouse in Leisabithol were also reportedly set ablaze by unknown miscreants.

While the police are looking into the case, locals are reported to have gathered before the Jiribam police station, demanding to return their licenced arms collected for the recent Lok Sabha election and they be allowed to protect themselves with their licenced arms.

The District Magistrate of Jiribam imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the district on June 6, 2024. In the order, the DM said he had received a “request” from the Superintendent of Police, who said there was a likelihood of widespread disturbance due to “unlawful activities of some anti-social elements”.

The District Magistrate of the neighbouring Tamenglong too issued an order imposing Section 144 across entire villages along the border of Tamenglong and Jiribam districts, saying that there was imminent danger to lives and property due to law and order situation in the area.

Moreover, Jiribam MLA Md. Ashab Uddin has condemned the murder of Soibam Sharatkumar and expressed his condolences to the bereaved family. In a video release, MLA Md. Ashab Uddin recalled that a peace committee was formed at the Jiribam SP Office, comprising members from all communities residing in the district, to maintain peace amidst the Manipur violence.

He urged the Peace Committee to persist in their efforts to sustain peace in the district. Furthermore, he called on all Meira Paibi women, students’ unions, civil society organizations (CSOs), representatives of local and urban bodies, and political parties to unite in the pursuit of peace.

However, the Federation of Civil Societies (FOCS) Manipur has raised concerns alleging that the peace committee, consisting of prominent civil society organization leaders, district administration, and Assam Rifles, is a ploy to commit genocide against the Meiteis in Jiribam district. It said that the incident is an attempt to drive out Meitei from Jiribam.

A statement by the FOCS said that Soibam Sharatkumar, from Sorok Atingbi in Jiribam District, was kidnapped by Kuki militants while returning from his farm at Leishabithol. He was abducted near Khasia Punzi, and his mutilated body was later found at Mulargao Hills, showing signs of severe torture. Subsequently, the farm of Kh Janaki, ex-Adhyaksha of Jiribam, was burned down, as was another Meitei house in Nungkhal.

Earlier, on March 28, Lamtai Khunou in Jiribam was attacked with bombs, causing widespread panic. Three shops belonging to Manikumar Haobam were destroyed in this attack. Additionally, a Meitei driver was killed after being severely beaten at Keiphundai.

Activists from various civil society organisations in Jiribam have evacuated the Meiteis from the area to the Chingdong Leikai Primary School Relief Camp for their safety, reports added.

In the meantime, according to orders by Director General of Police, Manipur on June 7, 2024, a significant number of Commando officers and personnel of Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal, Kakching and Bishnupur have been deployed in Jiribam.

However, the pertinent questions arise –Why such incident is allowed to recur in any part of the State even after the violent conflict in Manipur has continued over a year? Without evacuating the residents from their original settlements, can’t the Indian Security Forces protect the Meiteis from the militants? Can’t the Indian Security Forces flush out the militant/miscreant while protecting the people in their setllements? Are the Kuki-Zomi militants starting to occupy and control Jiribam so that the Meiteis cannot access Imphal-Silchar National Highway 37, the working lifeline other than Imphal-Dimapur National Highway 2? Are there vested interest groups who want to keep the violent conflict between the Kuki-Zomis and Meiteis continues? Is Jiribam going to be another Churachandpur or Moreh or Kangpokpi?

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