The political sparring was played out against the backdrop of continuing street protests by women activists against Assam Rifles’ presence in the state.
A group of 40 MLAs and ministers, including those from BJP, had petitioned Modi on Wednesday for the Assam Rifles’ 9th, 22nd and 37th battalions to be replaced wherever they are currently deployed with other “trustworthy central forces” alongside state forces.
On Thursday, it was the turn of the 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs, seven of whom are from BJP, to send a memorandum pleading not to remove the Assam Rifles from the state. The group said withdrawing the paramilitary force, which has already been replaced in a key checkpoint at Moirang Lamkhai in Bishnupur district, would “harm and jeopardise our safety and security”.
“Assam Rifles is jointly working hard with other central forces to contain the situation in Manipur. Their contributions and sacrifices for our motherland are, in fact, beyond describable,” states the memorandum.
The 10 MLAs also pointed out to Modi that the unabated violence had led to deep mistrust between the Kuki-Zo-Hmar and Meitei communities, “reflected in splitting of the local administration and law-enforcing agencies too”.
A suo motu FIR by Manipur Police accusing the 9th Assam Rifles of obstructing a search for tribal militants in Bishnupur on August 5 and enabling them to escape had emerged Tuesday, exposing a fault line in the security establishment. Late Tuesday, the Army’s Spear Corps sent out a message to all its ranks deployed in Manipur to “continue to be fair to all and fear none”. It said “some inimical elements have made desperate, repeated and failed attempts to question the role, intent and integrity of the Assam Rifles, which is working relentlessly towards saving lives and restoration of peace in Manipur from May 3”.