Manipur Assessment - Year 2001
Faced with violent protests in Manipur, the Union government, on July 27, 2001, reverted back to the original ceasefire ground rules with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM). On June 14, 2001, the Union government had decided to extend the cease-fire with the NSCN-IM 'without territorial limits', to all Naga-dominated areas in the North East. This decision was perceived as threatening the territorial integrity of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, by the people of these states. Widespread violent protests against this ceasefire extension in Manipur, witnessed disturbing incidents such as the State Assembly building being burnt and 13 protestors losing their lives on June 18, 2001. The United Committee, Manipur (UCM) formed as an umbrella organization of six socio-political organizations in Manipur spearheaded the anti-ceasefire protests.On July 26, 2001, the Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF)--an umbrella organisation of three Meitei terrorist groups in Manipur, the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF)--criticized the NSCN-IM for demanding the extension of its cease-fire with the Union government into the territories of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
Earlier, following long term political instability in Manipur, President's rule was imposed in the State on June 2, 2001. Instability induced by terrorist activity entered its thirty-seventh year in Manipur, in 2001. The year 2001 in Manipur began with a State-wide strike called by Bof Meira Paibis, a women's organisation demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the setting ablaze of an oil tanker by unidentified terrorists in Imphal West district on January 1. On January 5, 2001, dead bodies of three persons abducted earlier on January 4, 2001 and allegedly killed by unidentified terrorists were recovered from Imphal West district. The State also witnessed terrorist attacks on non-Manipuris in the first week of year 2001 in which seven persons were killed in various parts of the State.
From January, 2001 to May 15, 2001, a total of 100 persons lost their lives in terrorist-induced violence in Manipur.This included 30 civilians, 57 terrorists and 13 security force personnel.
In the year 2000, terrorist conflict in the State resulted in the killing of 237 persons. The year was also notable for an unresolved political crisis emanating from a fluidity of the different political formations in the State Legislative Assembly; an incident of defiance by personnel of the Manipur Rifles and their refusal to discharge essential security duties; and hard evidence backed by the Central Government of the nexus between terrorist groups and senior State politicians.
Casualties of Terrorist violence between May- September 2001
(May 16 to September 30)
Note: * Figures are compiled from news reports and are provisional
According to official sources a total number of 245 incidents of terrorist attacks were reported in the year 2000 as compared to 281 in 1999. Total casualties remained at roughly at he same level, with 246 killed in 2000, as compared to 231 in 1999. The number of security force personnel killed decreased to 51 from 64 in 1999. Civilian causalities also increased marginally in 2000 to 93 as compared to 89 in 1999. The number of terrorists killed increased to 102 in 2000 in comparison to 78 in 1999. 117 terrorists including 98 belonging to the outlawed Meitei outfits – the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People's Liberation Army (PLA), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) – were arrested in the year 2000. The number of arms and ammunition looted in 2000 was 140 as compared to 147 in 1999. The biggest arms-looting incident in Manipur in the year 2000 occurred on October 20, when PLA terrorists looted arms and ammunition from the Jiribam police post near the Manipur-Assam border. The total number of arms and ammunition recovered in 2000 was 78. 33 terrorists including 31 belonging to the Meitei outfits surrendered in year 2000. There were 16 bomb explosions by the Meitei militants in Manipur in 2000.
Among 35 insurgent groups present in the State, 18 groups were reported to be active through the year in their quest for demands that ranged from the creation of a separate State within the Indian Union to outright sovereignty. Among the most active were the five outlawed Meitei terrorist groups – UNLF, PLA, PREPAK, the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) and Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL) – who were separately waging an armed struggle for their common objective of an ‘independent’ Manipur.
Certain Islamic terrorist groups which that emerged in Manipur in the early 1990s, including the United Islamic Liberation Army (UILA), People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), North East Minority Front (NEMF) and Islamic National Front (INF), remained more or less passive during 2000. However, law enforcement agencies closely monitored the activities of these groups and several activists were arrested.
Terrorism in Manipur continues to be influenced by the activities of groups based in the other Northeastern States, particularly Nagaland. The main Naga terrorist group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) remained active in the Naga-inhabited districts of Manipur – Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong. One of the problems facing Manipur is the ethnic conflict between Nagas and another major tribal group in the State, Kukis. The Kukis have been struggling for a separate State within the Indian Union since the late 1980s. Though tension prevails between the Kukis and Nagas in certain areas of the State, the situation has remained largely peaceful with only two incidents of violence reported in the year 1999 and none in year 2000.
A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) report has indicated an alleged nexus between terrorist outfits and politicians including at least five ministers of the State government. The outfits with which the Ministers are alleged to be having links include the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K), PLA, UNLF, Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL-O) and Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA). Reports indicate that a minister had attended the funeral of a top-ranking terrorist. A few ministers are alleged to have also provided financial support apart from their official cars and bungalows to the terrorists. Consequent to the raid by security force personnel on November 28, 2000, at the official residence of the Transport Minister, Haokholet Kipgen, and the arrest of two Kuki National Front terrorists there, the Central government has announced an investigation into the clandestine alliance between the politicians and terrorist outfits. MHA reports have also indicated the subversion of civilian administration in the State. Senior administrative officials functioning in an insecure environment, with extortion by terrorists posing a serious problem, have adopted the path of least resistance. Official reports indicate that even senior state officials and politicians are paying extortion money demanded by the terrorists, and openly negotiate the levels at which the extortion amounts from various departments are to be ‘fixed’. Terrorist groups have made inroads into the functioning of government departments, including interference in government contracts, development projects, supply and bill clearances. Terrorists of the PLA and the UNLF reportedly have unhindered access to government files and offices. Commercial contracts are allegedly being allotted to nominees or members of various terrorist groups, who siphon off the money for their own ends. Terrorist outfits are also allegedly offloading rice, sugar, wheat and other essential commodities from the Ppublic Distribution System (PDS) and distributing them among locals at lower prices in order to gain 'legitimacy' and increase their 'base' in the State. According to official sources the Centre is stated to be contemplating suspension of all funds to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) based in Manipur, as various NGOs are allegedly siphoning off large sums of funds to the terrorists. Large-scale extortion by terrorist organizations seriously undermined the State government's administration, developmental efforts and the fight against terrorism.
The Manipur Chief Minister Nipamacha Singh was consistent in maintaining that the cease-fire between the Centre and NSCN-IM would not be extended to Manipur ‘formally or informally’. The NSCN-IM has been insisting that the cease-fire be extended to 'Greater Nagaland' comprising parts of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. In this context, a rally of approximately 800,000 people was organised by several organisations on September 28, 2000, demanding protection of the territory of Manipur. The non-Naga population and also certain Naga groups are apprehensive that the cease-fire extension to areas outside the State of Nagaland would lead to large-scale ethnic violence and disintegration of the contiguous States, including Manipur. Despite ethnic clashes between the various tribes within Manipur, all the non-Naga groups have been unanimous in rejecting the cease-fire extension.
On October 25, 2000, the State was declared a 'Proclaimed Area' under the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1911, for a further six months. The State government on December 5, 2000, instituted a nine-member committee, led by the Deputy Chief Minister Chandramani Singh, to examine the feasibility of withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 – according to which Manipur has been declared a 'disturbed area' – from the State, or parts thereof, and the role of the security forces in combating terrorism. Nevertheless, in view of the deteriorating law and order situation the State government has also officially requested the Centre for the return of all Army units withdrawn from Manipur during the Kargil conflict.
The December 8-13, 2000, strike of the Manipur Rifles on the issue of irregularity in payment of arrears and revision of salary structure led to a momentary collapse in the security cover of several persons high on the 'hit list' of terrorists. Reports mentioned an alleged siphoning off of funds meant for the striking security force personnel. The strike, which affected counter-insurgency operations in the State, also assumes significance in the light of the fact that the entire battalion of Manipur Rifles was on strike and that certain other official departments, such as the Fire Services and Criminal Investigation Department, expressed open solidarity with them.