Manipur Police arrest two Arambai Tenggol members from Imphal

This comes on the heels of arrests in Kangpokpi and Jiribam, which were protested by Kuki-Zo groups claiming that the police were turning a blind eye to “armed militant” groups like Arambai Tenggol

Updated - July 12, 2024 07:23 am IST

Published - July 11, 2024 09:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Members of Arambai Tenggol, a Meitei organisation, during a demonstration in Manipur’s Jiribam district. Photo for representation.

Members of Arambai Tenggol, a Meitei organisation, during a demonstration in Manipur’s Jiribam district. Photo for representation. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Manipur police arrested two members of the radical armed Meitei outfit Arambai Tenggol in the heart of Imphal city’s Paona Bazaar area on Wednesday. The police also seized arms and ammunition, including an INSAS rifle with 16 live rounds of ammunition and a pistol with three live rounds.

The arrest comes within days of fresh tensions erupting in parts of Kangpokpi district and in Jiribam district, which has seen violence and arson since June.

The Arambai Tenggol group has come into prominence as one of the largest armed actors in the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, which began in May 2023.

Looted weapons

In the first weeks after the conflict broke out between the valley-based Meitei community and the hills-based Scheduled Tribe Kuki-Zo people, multiple India Reserve Battalion camps across the valley area reported having their armouries “looted” of over 5,000 weapons, including INSAS rifles, and accompanying ammunitions.

In the course of the conflict, it came to be widely believed that these weapons had armed large parts of the civilian population, including members of Arambai Tenggol. Over 4,000 of the stolen weapons are yet to be recovered. ??

The two Arambai Tenggol members who were arrested have been identified as Kangabam Lenin Singh, 43, and Toijam Shantikishor, 50. Following the arrests, the Manipur police said that a case had been registered “for further investigation and legal action”.

Arrests in hill districts

The arrest came a day after the Manipur police and the Central Reserve Police Force arrested three individuals they identified as “armed cadres of an underground outfit” in Kangpokpi district, during joint operations. The police were acting on inputs from the National Investigation Agency and handed the accused over to the agency after making the arrest. This triggered massive protests in Kangpokpi district, with Kuki-Zo groups seeking their unconditional release on the grounds that they were village volunteers.

A day earlier, on July 8, gunfire was reported in Jiribam, just as Leader of the Opposition Rahul Gandhi was planning a visit to the district. In the ensuing security operations, two village volunteers from Phaitol village in Jiribam were arrested with a cache of local handmade weapons, explosives, and ammunition.

Kuki-Zo civil society organisations and apex tribal bodies held a 12-hour shutdown on July 10 in all Kuki-Zo-majority districts, to protest against the arrest of “village volunteers” in Phaitol and Kangpoki. During the protest, the Kuki Inpi Manipur, an apex body of Kuki tribes in the State, accused security forces of acting only against their people while “turning a blind eye” to “armed militants” like Arambai Tenggol.

‘Peace and justice’ demands

Apart from the recent wave of disturbances gripping Jiribam district — which only saw violence and arson erupt in June this year — the combing operations, arrests and weapons recovery come on the heels of continuing protests from both communities, demanding starkly contrasting pre-requisites for “peace and justice” before the conflict can be ended.

The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), one of the largest Meitei civil society groups in the valley, held a massive rally at the end of June, explicitly accusing the security forces of conducting combing operations and weapons recoveries only in the valley areas without acting against armed groups in the hills. They called for the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and an ouster of all “Kuki-Chin narco terrorists from Manipur” as part of their demands for peace and justice.

This rally had come within a week of peace marches held across the State’s hill districts by Kuki-Zo groups, led by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum and Kuki Inpi Manipur. They had demanded a separate administration for their people as the “only solution” to peace and justice.

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