India’s central intelligence agencies on Thursday informed the Manipur Police that miscreants are arranging for police commando uniforms, and could use them to fuel violence through a coordinated attack in the state that has been torn by ethnic strife since last month, officials aware of the matter said on Friday.
The advisory by the intelligence bureau (IB), which was shared with top security officials in the state, said that it was reliably learnt that a tailor in Bishnupur district’s Moirang town was contracted to stitch 500 Manipur Police commando uniforms by June 15. HT has not seen the advisory.
But officials aware of its contents said the agencies said miscreants were likely to carry out attacks on June 17 and 18 by posing as commandos across different areas in least three districts of Churachandpur, Imphal East and Imphal West in Manipur.
One such attack by miscreants posing as security personnel occurred last week (June 9) when people wearing olive green fatigues walked into Khoken village in Kangpokpi district and opened fire, killing three residents and injuring two others.
Following the incident, the Indian Army last Saturday tweeted that they had information of “miscreants masquerading as security personnel to enter villages and foment trouble”.
“Security forces are working together with utmost synergy to protect lives, property and bring peace in Manipur. Miscreants’ inimical action will be appropriately responded,” the army statement said.
A senior security official, aware of the latest intelligence inputs, said: “Miscreants posing as police or security forces is a worry, but, in a place like Manipur, where army and security forces have almost been present throughout the last few decades, villagers can distinguish between the real and the fake uniforms. Even in last week’s case in Khoken village, the villagers had sensed that the armed miscreants who posed as security personnel were fake. But by the time they could react, however, it was too late.”
The bigger worry, this official explained, is that the miscreants have access to large calibre weapons and ammunition, stolen from police armouries.
“The miscreants have access to powerful weapons and enough ammunition. They have AK 47s and SLR and INSAS rifles. Also, the ammunition they have is innumerable,” the official said.
Mobs across different districts broke into armouries of different police stations and other military units in two phases over the last one month. The first breach happened during the first week of violence that started on May 3, and the second during the weekend of May 27 and 28.
Manipur Police, in their assessment of the loss of weapons and ammunition have noted that at least 500,000 pieces of ammunition and 3,500 weapons were stolen. Of this, police and security agencies have jointly recovered at least 953 weapons and 13,351 ammunition since then.
AK 47s, mortars, INSAS light machine guns, pistols and grenade launchers are among weapons and ammunition that police and security forces have seized so far.
Ethnic violence in Manipur — particularly between the Meiteis, who largely live in the plains, and the Kukis, who largely live in the hill areas — erupted on May 3. Since then, at least 115 people have been killed, over 300 have been injured, and 36460 have been displaced . The first few incidents of violence were reported in Churachandpur but spread quickly across the state. The immediate trigger for the violence was a proposal to accord Meiteis, who make up 53% of the population, Scheduled Tribe status. The protests turned into clashes that engulfed the state where ethnic fault lines run deep.
“Going by the reports, one community feels that the forces are not neutral and is thus, blocking roads and not allowing the forces to move at a few places.There is also some apprehension that the police is taking sides. It is a dangerous situation if locals lose confidence in the security apparatus because they could be tempted to take law in their own hands. Now, if some of those people pose as security personnel and indulge in violence, it is only going to exacerbate the situation. The forces must engage in confidence building with the locals to assure them that they act in a completely bipartisan manner to ensure security to all people,” retired lieutenant general DS Hooda said.
Officials said women CRPF personnel have been sent to Manipur to engage with the women protesters.