Manipur Assessment - Year 2015
Three non-locals [non-Manipuris] were killed and another four were injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast at a tea stall run by a non-local at Khoyathong, near the Motbung Bus Parking in Imphal West District, on December 21, 2014. The dead were identified as Ram Khusum Das, Shiva Kumar and Lallan, all hailing from Uttar Pradesh.
In a similar incident, on December 15, two migrant traders hailing from Bihar were killed and another four were injured, when a powerful IED exploded at a betel leaf market located in Thangal Bazar in Imphal East District.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of eight non-locals, hailing from States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal were killed and 47 were injured in six incidents of attacks targeting non-locals across the State through 2014. In 2013, 12 people were killed and another 39 were injured in seven such attacks.
Despite these incidents, however, the general security environment in the State has seen marked improvement over the past six years. Indeed, according to the SATP database, 54 fatalities [20 civilians, 10 Security Force (SF) personnel and 24 militants] were recorded in the State in 2014, as compared to 55 [21 civilians, six SF troopers, 28 militants] in 2013. Manipur had registered 485 insurgency-linked fatalities, including 131 civilians, 13 SF personnel and 341 militants, in 2008. Fatalities have registered a constant decline thereafter, with the exception of 2012, when there was a spike, primarily due to increasing militant fatalities, at 73 in 2012, as compared to 30 in 2011. Fatalities among civilians have registered a constant decline since 2008.
Other parameters of violence also declined through 2014. As against five major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) resulting in 25 fatalities in 2013, 2014 saw four such incidents resulting in 11 deaths. 2014 recorded 66 incidents of explosions, in which 15 persons were killed and 76 were injured, as against 76 incidents in 2013, which resulted in 24 fatalities and 103 injuries.
Fratricidal clashes between Naga militants also declined. There were just five such clashes through 2014 resulting in three fatalities. These clashes occurred between the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) – at times a combined force of ZUF and Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland–Khaplang (NSCN-K) – and the NSCN-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), and between NSCN-IM and NSCN-Khole-Kitovi (NSCN-KK). There were seven such incidents, resulting in nine fatalities, in 2013.
The number of Districts from where killings were reported remained the same – at eight - in both 2013 and 2014. The maximum number of fatalities were reported from Ukhrul (12), followed jointly by Tamenglong, Senapati and Imphal East (eight each). By comparison, in 2013, Tamenglong recorded the highest fatalities, at 12; followed by Senapati, 11.
SF action resulted in an increased number of militants arrested. 536 militants were arrested in 2014, as against 368 in 2013. Arrested militants prominently included People’s Liberation Army (PLA), 58; People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), 56; United National Liberation Front (UNLF), 55; Progressive faction of PREPAK (PREPAK-PRO), 45; Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), 42; and ZUF, nine. Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei stated in the State Assembly on July 23, 2014, that a total of 2,432 militants had been arrested in the State since April 2012 and INR 61.86 million was recovered from them. While 2,415 militants were arrested within the State, 17 were arrested in locations outside State boundaries. He added that 1,154 militants were in judicial custody and eight were in Police custody, while 1,270 cadres had been released on bail.
At least 93 militants surrendered in 2014, adding to 273 in 2013. In one the most significant surrenders of 2014, 57 militants of three different militant groups – 35 of the K. K. Nganba faction of Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP- K.K. Nganba; 20 of the Nongdrenkhomba faction of KCP- Military Council (KCP-MC-Nongdrenkhomba); and two of the Vice-chairman Faction of PREPAK - surrendered and laid down their arms in a 'home coming ceremony' on December 15, 2014. The surrendered militants included Nongdrenkhomba, 'commander-in-chief' of KCP-MC; Ningomba Nabachandra alias Naba, 'chairman' of the PREPAK-VC faction; and Potsangbam Chinglen alias London, 'finance secretary ‘of PREPAK. On December 19, 2014, Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei informed the State Assembly that a total of 2,731 underground cadres belonging to various armed groups operating in the State were being provided assistance under the Centre’s surrender policy: “Out of them, 1,122 belong to different groups under KNO (Kuki National Organisation), 1059 under UPF (United People’s Front) groups, besides 550 others.” Currently, about 19 underground groups under KNO and UPF are under a Suspension of Operations (SoO) Agreement in the State.
The threat from the most active militant formation, Coordination Committee (CorCom), has also decreased. CorCom was responsible for eight fatalities in 2014, the same as in 2013, and accounted for 10 blasts through 2014, as against 28 in 2013. CorCom was set up on July 8, 2011, by seven Imphal Valley based groups (reduced to six after UPPK’s ouster in January 2013).
Urgent concerns do, however, remain. The number of incidents of killing increased from 10 in 2013 to 31 in 2014. Three SF personnel were killed along with nine militants in 11 incidents of encounters between rebels and the SFs in 2014. Though number of such encounters in 2013 was a higher 13, no SF trooper was killed in such encounters, and all 15 fatalities in such encounters were militants.
In terms of lethality, ZUF remained the most active outfit. Out of 54 killings in 2014, 10 were linked to ZUF, followed by NSCN-IM (six). Out of the total of 20 civilian fatalities in 2014, only seven could be attributed to a specific terror outfit. Naga militant formations were responsible for five of these [NSCN-IM (two), Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF) (two), and ZUF (one)]; while PLA was responsible for the other two. 13 fatalities remained unattributed.
Indeed, the spillover of the Naga insurgency has led to significant loss of life in Manipur. Deputy Chief Minister Gangmei, who also holds the Home portfolio, revealed on July 15, 2014, that over 100 persons had been killed in Manipur by NSCN-IM since the 1980’s. Further, at least eight members of the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) of Manipur [formed under the provisions of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council (Third Amendment) Act 2008] are on the NSCN-IM's hit list. Suspected NSCN-IM militants have already killed the former Vice Chairman and Member of the Ukhrul Autonomous District Council (UADC), Ngalangzar Malue, at Finch Corner in Ukhrul District on July 12, 2014. His nephew Ratanmi Malue and driver Khangembam Bigyani were injured in the attack.
Out of the 10 SF fatalities in 2014, six were attributed to Valley based groups - three each to UNLF and PLA. The two Naga outfits - NSCN-IM and ZUF - were responsible for one SF fatality each.
At least 28 militant outfits remained active in the State through 2014, according to the SATP database. These primarily included PLA, UNLF, KYKL, NSCN-IM and ZUF. On August 29, 2013, the Union Government had declared that 34 militant formations were active in Manipur.
The State recorded an increase in the number of extortion and abduction cases during in 2014. 27 extortion cases were reported during 2014, as compared to 14 in 2013 [the reported instances are likely a fraction of the actual incidence]. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) issued a public notice on March 9, 2014, asking all sections of people in general and affluent groups in particular to lodge complaints with the nearest Police Station or inform the Ministry through helplines, if such incidents occurred. The notification stated that names of the underground organisations, amount demanded, their telephone numbers and other particulars should be notified to the Police Stations and the MHA. The victims were required to use their own telephone numbers, and complaints lodged using some other phones would not be entertained or acknowledged. The identity of the callers, the notification stated, would be kept confidential. No further information is available on the implementation of this measure.
There were at least 31 recorded incidents of abductions through 2014, with 43 persons abducted. 23 registered incidents resulting in 40 abductions are on record in 2013.
The year also witnessed increased activities of Islamist outfits in the State. Worryingly, in July 2014, it was reported that at least 23 youth from the Lilong area in Thoubal District had left home to join al-Qaeda. According to a September 5 report, an unnamed Government official disclosed, “They had gone in two batches. Four have returned home while the others are untraceable.” The official disclosed further that these recruits were first indoctrinated and trained in weapons before being placed in the actual war theatres in Afghanistan and Iraq. Significantly, Deputy CM, Gaikhangam confirmed that al Qaeda was recruiting youth from the Northeast, noting, “It is a fact that Al-Qaida recruits youth from the Northeast, and we must take care of the element that is threatening the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.” However, State-based Muslim outfits, including People's United Liberation Front (PULF), remained dormant.
With ethnic militant formations maintaining safe bases in Myanmar and Bangladesh, insurgency in the State is far from over. The Border Security Force (BSF), during the 3-day bi-annual Inspector General level meeting for border management and coordination, commencing on March 6, 2014, handed over a list of 66 camps of insurgent groups, operating in India's Northeast, which exist inside Bangladesh, to their Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) counterparts. The list included camps of the Manipur-based KYKL and PLA. Besides, CorCom is based in Myanmar, and is mulling plans for increased coordination amongst various militant groups operating in India's Northeast. CorCom ‘convenor’ Khun-dongbam Pambei, in a Press Statement on the occasion of the Committee’s third foundation day (July 8, 2014), stated that the people of Manipur and ‘Western South East Asia (WESEA)’ [Northeast India] would soon see a new face of the ongoing revolutionary movement with its ‘Joint Fighting Force (JFF)’ determined to step up its armed campaign against the Indian military under the command of the ‘Joint Military Council (JMC)’.
Under the prevailing circumstances, the State Cabinet extended the 'disturbed area status’ of the State under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for another year, from December 1, 2014. State Education Minister and Government spokesman M. Okendro, while announcing the decision to the media, observed, "Taking serious note of frequent bomb blasts and other acts of violence, the Government considered it necessary to extend the disturbed area status in the state."
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on August 15, 2014, stated that the demand for an 'Alternative Arrangement' by the Nagas in Manipur was a 'pipe dream' and added that if it was conceded, the integrity of the State would be jeopardized. Also, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, observed that the Union Government would not allow the ongoing peace talks with NSCN-IM to jeopardize the State’s territorial integrity. The United Naga Council (UNC) is leading the movement for an Alternative Arrangement for Naga inhabited areas of the State. UNC held its first round of political level talks with representatives of the Union Government in Senapati District on February 6, 2014. Earlier, six rounds of tripartite talks had been held between State, Union Government and UNC representatives, before the political level talks.
Manipur boasts of a significantly high police population ratio, at 1,020 policemen per 100,000 population, many multiples of the national average of 141 (at the end of 2013, according to National Crime Records Bureau data). Unfortunately, recruitment to the Police (as well as other Departments of Government) is seen more as an employment generation activity in the State, rather than as a security measure, and the quality and preparedness of the Force is abysmal. Manipur Police has planned to modernize its functioning, to include cyber crime investigation, enhancing the mobility of the force, improving communication system, upgrading the striking capability with induction of sophisticated weapons, increasing office space and housing of lower subordinates, procuring security gadgets, and to professionalize its working in 2015, according to state police sources. The State Police Department Public Relations Officer, S. Gautam, stated, on January 2, 2015, “Efforts are also on to upgrade the knowledge and skills of all field operatives especially the armed police by putting them through Refresher Training Courses both within and outside the State.”
While it is now established state policy to seek negotiated solutions with armed rebel groups, it is necessary for the state to define the limits beyond which it will not compromise, and to strengthen its security apparatus to control future challenges.