August 15, 2023
Good morning. Happy Independence Day! We are taking a day off today, hence we will not be publishing this newsletter tomorrow. See you on Thursday!
In today’s either/view, we discuss what the dispute between the Manipur police and Assam Rifles is all about. We also look at the creation of a new district in Madhya Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
What’s the dispute between the Manipur police and Assam Rifles?
Ethnic conflicts often elude simplistic narratives. Instead, they unveil the complex web of historical grievances and economic disparities that grounds, and often hides behind our everyday reality.
Amidst the ongoing ethnic conflict between the Meiteis and Kukis in Manipur (here’s a piece on the conflict’s origins), there’s another tension escalating. The Assam Rifles, a central paramilitary force, and the Manipur police are at odds. Things took a turn for the worse when on August 5, the Manipur police filed a report against Assam Rifles. They’re both under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Why are the troops, instead of collaborating, sparring?
The Assam Rifles (AR) belongs to the group of six central armed police forces (CAPFs) overseen by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). They’re crucial in upholding law and order in Northeast India, working alongside the Indian Army. It has a sanctioned strength exceeding 63,000, spread across 46 battalions.
Alongside the AR, there’s the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
AR is the lone paramilitary force operating under a dual control system. While the MHA holds administrative authority, the Indian Army, overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), commands its operations.
The tension between Assam Rifles and the Manipur police surfaced in June when a viral video captured a fiery exchange between the 37th battalion of AR and Manipur police officials. This incident occurred near Sugnu police station in Kakching district. When an AR team reportedly blocked access to the police station’s entrance, it sparked the argument showcased in the video.
On August 5, in the Kwakta area of Bishnupur district, which lies on the boundary of Meitei-dominated Bishnupur and the Kuki-majority Churachandpur hill district, three Meiteis and two Kukis lost their lives.
Two days after the initial incident, on August 7, the Manipur government waded into the dispute. It issued an order demanding the withdrawal of AR personnel from a pivotal border post situated between Meitei and Kuki-dominated regions. The government aimed to substitute them with state police and CRPF personnel. But the Army contested this claim, asserting that the post wasn’t manned by AR, to begin with.
Then, on August 9, 40 legislators from Manipur, reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They urged the replacement of three AR units—the 9th, 22nd, and 37th battalions—with other Central forces and state police teams.
There’s another dimension to this. When the news about the police’s complicity in atrocities against Kuki women became public knowledge, trust in the state police, which recruits largely from the Meitei community, declined even further.
The ethnic conflict has had a numbing effect on police investigations. Kuki officers in Meitei-dominated Imphal valley withdrew to the hills, while Meitei officers stationed in hill districts like Churachandpur fled to Imphal.
Amidst the din and destruction currently saturating the state, why do the police want the AR, one of India’s central armed forces, to be replaced?
VIEW: Suspicions of collusion
The Manipur police hold the view that the Assam Rifles (AR) exhibit bias towards Kukis, hindering their ability to maintain order and peace. They couldn’t stop Kuki militants from crossing the buffer zone and killing Meieti men. They claim that instances of gunfire have taken place even when central security forces were present, eroding trust and fostering public discontent. They allege that the AR has jeopardised their investigations involving Kukis.
In a volatile situation like this, their presence may contribute to declining faith in State institutions. They’ve caused public grievances to mount. Meiteis’ distrust of the AR goes back to the infamous Suspension of Operations agreement, a ceasefire understanding between Kuki groups and the Centre. Due to the usefulness of Kuki militants, Meiteis believe the central forces give them free rein.
COUNTERVIEW: All hearsay
The Indian Army and the Assam Rifles have dismissed the videos as attempts to tarnish the Assam Rifles’ image. Far from what the videos imply, their role is to reinstate peace amidst ethnic turmoil. The statement noted that despite repeated unsuccessful efforts, some elements have tried to question the integrity and intent of Central security forces who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to saving lives and restoring peace in Manipur.
The Assam Rifles attributes the breakdown of their partnership with Manipur police to the police’s alleged bias. Assam Rifles officers claim the police favour Meitei mobs. AR, on the other hand, prevented civilians and police commandos from heading into the hills, as is required of them. They stress their role as a barrier between the hills and valley and urge the Manipur police not to get caught up in revenge-seeking actions.
- In Manipur, the Assam Rifles and state police are training their guns on each other – Scroll
- Story of the Assam Rifles, against whom Manipur Police have filed an FIR – The Indian Express
- NRC, no separate Kuki admin, curbs on Assam Rifles: 40 Manipur MLAs submit demands to PM Modi – The Indian Express
- Even the Police in Manipur Are Now Partitioned Along Ethnic Lines – The Quint
- Fabricated attempts to malign image of Assam Rifles: Army’s Spear Corps – The Hindu
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Manipur police’s allegations against the Assam Rifles are just.
b) The Manipur police’s allegations against the Assam Rifles aren’t just.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
A professor writes: Why a Pune lecturer’s arrest for ‘outraging religious feelings’ has left me wary
For the Left:
India trying to be part of solution to world’s problems
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
NGT flags delay on Ganga (Uttar Pradesh) – An oversight committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said in a recent report that 147 of the 301 drains falling directly into the Ganga river in the state remain untapped. The same report also stated, in the drains that were already tapped, the water quality hasn’t improved, with only one in Category B. There has been a delay in tapping drains and completing the sewage treatment plants (STPs).
Why it matters: The committee, chaired by Justice SVS Rathore, monitors the compliance of NGT orders on preventing the Ganga from being polluted. Out of the 113 operational STPs, only 87 achieved their targets. The STPs have an operational capacity of over 3,700 million litres a day, but capacity utilisation is below 3,000.
Anti-NEET struggle (Tamil Nadu) – Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi has stated he won’t clear the NEET exemption bill passed in the state assembly. In a meeting with NEET toppers, he said he wants children to compete with the best. He said students and the government shouldn’t blame the standards set but should work to increase them, stating the CBSE syllabus is enough.
Why it matters: The current DMK government has been vocal about its opposition to NEET. The state assembly has adopted the anti-NEET bill thrice. One of those times was during the previous AIADMK regime. The recent suicide cases of a student and his father prompted Chief Minister MK Stalin to once against speak out against the competitive exam and requested students to take care in light of the results being declared.
XIMR plan yet to materialise (Odisha) – The plan for a second Xavier Institute of Management (XIMR) campus at Rourkela has hit another roadblock. In 2015, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced the new campus days after recommending an IIM for Sambalpur. The campus was an agreement between the government, Xavier University (XU) and, Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP). After the RSP faced financial troubles, the plan remained in limbo.
Why it matters: The RSP committed ₹120 crore and 30 acres of land at the Rourkela Town Unit (RTU)-5 of the RSP township. RSP wanted some concessions and requested if there would be a 25% reservation for children of SAIL employees and have RSP members on the XIMR Board. The education department couldn’t guarantee these promises. With the state economy expanding, having a XIMR campus would help create the necessary skilled employment for high-end jobs.
New district (Madhya Pradesh) – Mauganj has become the state’s 53rd district. It was carved out of the existing Rewa district. The three tehsils of Rewa district, including Mauganj, Hanumana, and Naigadhi will become a part of the newly formed district. Now, Rewa will have 9 districts compared to the previous 12. Mauganj will be the new headquarters of the district. Its first collector will be Soniya Meena from the 2013 IAS batch, with Ajay Shrivastav as the additional commissioner.
Why it matters: In March, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan announced the formation of the new district. It goes back to a promise he made in 2014 when the region’s residents wanted a new district. Last month, he announced the formation of another new Nagda district, a tehsil in Ujjain. These announcements come as the state goes to the polls later this year.
New hydropower projects (Arunachal Pradesh) – The state government has allotted 12 hydropower projects to three government public sector units (PSUs) – NHPC Ltd, SJVN Ltd, and NEEPCO Ltd. The total operational capacity of these projects will be over 11,500 MW. The state government will have a 26% equity share in the projects. These are expected to fetch the state over ₹3,000 crore annually from the 12% free power component.
Why it matters: The projects were first awarded to independent power developers but remain stalled. Over the past couple of years, the Centre and state have worked to revitalise the projects. The projects are expected to boost the development of the state and augment the country’s power needs with clean and green energy.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
1 lakh – Tata Motors announced it reached a milestone of selling 1 lakh electric vehicles (EVs) amid its ongoing commitment to be at the forefront of India’s EV revolution.