Manipur raises people’s army, rights groups warn of anarchy

May 8th, 2008 - 11:10 am ICT by admin  

Imphal, May 8 (IANS) The Manipur government’s decision to raise a people’s army to fight militancy is mired in a blazing row with civil rights groups warning of chaos and anarchy if the armed vigilance force comes into being. As part of the Manipur cabinet’s decision, 300 youths were recruited Monday from among hundreds of locals at Heirok village in Manipur’s Thoubal district, about 22 km southeast of state capital Imphal.

The second phase of recruitment of 200 more men would begin later this week at Chajing village in Imphal West district, about 10 km from the capital city. The new recruits would be imparted a month long training to handle .303 rifles before being deployed in their respective villages by middle of June.

There has been a wave of protests in Manipur after the recent move to arm locals to fight militancy. A panel discussion held in Imphal late Wednesday under the banner of the Manipur Forward Youth Front, a rights group, unanimously rejected the idea of arming locals.

“This shows the failure of the state government in controlling the situation and hence the idea of arming locals. Instead of a violent means, the government should try and look for a permanent solution or else there would be total anarchy in the state,” Sapamacha Kangleipal, president of the front, said.

Soon after his speech at the panel discussion, police arrested Kangleipal on charges of making seditious remarks.

The crackdown on rights groups for raising their voice against the raising of the people’s army has come under attack.

“The government is trying to act in a dictatorial manner where even rights leaders are being arrested for raising their voice,” a rights leader said requesting not to be named fearing action by the authorities.

There are fears that once locals are armed with weapons, it could lead to more violent clashes.

“The armed youths could well try to settle personals scores taking advantage of the licensed weapons in their hands,” T. Singh, a rights leader, said.

But the government defends its stand. “The decision to provide licensed weapons follows a public upsurge against militant groups indulging in killing of civilians and extorting money from locals,” said Manipur Flood Control Minister N. Biren. The new recruits would be paid a monthly salary of Rs.3,000.

Last month, in seperate attacks, militants killed three people - two teenaged girls in Heirok and a young man at Chajing village. Villagers said the victims were innocent and probably killed for petty reasons. Soon after the incidents, there was a public upsurge with locals in the two villages demanding the government to arm them with weapons for self-defence.

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