The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA was extended by another six months in Manipur on Wednesday barring 19 police stations falling under the Imphal valley and an area that shares its boundary with neighbouring Assam.
An official notification said the state government is of the opinion after analysing the prevailing law-and-order situation that it is not expedient to have a detailed assessment on the ground as security agencies are preoccupied with the maintenance of law and order.
"Now, therefore in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act... the Governor of Manipur hereby declare the entire state of Manipur excluding the areas falling under the jurisdiction of 19 police stations...as disturbed Area for a period of six months with effect from October 1, 2023," the notification said.
The police station areas where the Disturbed Areas Act has not been imposed are Imphal, Lamphel, City, Singjamei, Sekmai, Lamsang, Pastol, Wangoi, Porompat, Heingagng, Lamlai, Iribung, Leimakhong, Thoubal, Bishnupur, Nambol, Moirang, Kakchin and Jirbam.
Significantly, the areas that have been kept out of the purview of AFSPA are dominated by the majority Meitei community which includes Jiribam, adjacent to Silchar Valley of Assam.
With the extension of AFSPA, the Army and Assam Rifles cannot operate inside the areas under the 19 police stations without the consent of the state police.
Security officials have been advocating bringing the entire state under AFSPA so that they could easily ensure that the presence of terror groups within the valley is reduced or eliminated, sources said.
The security agencies have been warning that banned terror groups United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and People's Liberation Army (PLA), Kanglei Yawol Kanba Lup (KYKL), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and KCP have been forming their base in the Imphal valley of the state.
They have also been warning about the possibility of these terrorists mingling with crowds during any protest to stoke tensions in restive Manipur, the sources said.
They said at present UNLF has a cadre strength of 330 followed by PLA with 300 and KYKL with 25 who were active within the groups of the majority community.
The overwhelming support being extended to cadres of these banned organisations was witnessed on June 24, when Army and Assam Rifles, based on specific intelligence, nabbed 12 members of KYKL in East Imphal including self-styled 'Lt Colonel' Moirangthem Tamba alias Uttam. Uttam was one of the masterminds of the ambush on 6 Dogra regiment in 2015 that left 18 army soldiers dead.
The officials said there were apprehensions that the arms and ammunition looted from the Manipur Police armoury could have landed with these terror groups.
Among the arms looted included .303 rifles, Medium Machine Guns (MMG) and AK assault rifles, carbines, Insas Light Machine Guns (LMG), Insas rifles, M-16 and MP5 rifles.
The officials said around 4,537 arms and 6.32 lakh rounds of ammunition were missing mainly from Manipur Police Training Centre (MTPC) at Pangei in East Imphal, 7th India Reserve battalion and 8th Manipur Rifles, both located at Khabeisoi in Imphal city.
The extension of the AFSPA in the hill areas was of least significance as more than 20 terror groups from the tribal areas had entered into an agreement Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Centre and the state government.
More than 180 people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, when a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal valley, while tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mostly in the hill districts.
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