Massive Public Meet At Manipur's Ancient Fort Today Amid Unprecedented Security

Hundreds of central and state security forces have taken up defensive positions around the Kangla Fort in the heart of Manipur's capital Imphal, 24 hours before the start of a public meeting called by a valley-based village defence group inside the fort, the seat of power of the erstwhile Manipur kingdom.

The group, Arambai Tenggol (AT), has invited all MLAs to the meeting, where the leaders are expected to clear their position about the violence in Manipur. The group's call for the public meeting was prompted by the killings of four woodcutters, a village defence volunteer, and two police commandos by suspected insurgents in the past two weeks.

A special three-member team of the Home Ministry came to Imphal on Monday night and held talks with the AT; they met again on Tuesday. The team headed by the adviser on northeast affairs to the Home Ministry AK Mishra met the AT leaders at the Imphal home of Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba.

The other two members of the Home Ministry team are Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) Delhi joint director Mandeep Singh Tuli, and SIB joint director Imphal Rajesh Kumble.

Amid all this, 35 MLAs including leaders from the Naga tribes have asked the Centre to scrap the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with 25 Kuki insurgent groups. If this demand is not met, the leaders would take "appropriate action" after consulting the people, they said.

The "action" they referred to is being speculated as a threat to resign and let Manipur's BJP government fall. The state assembly has 60 seats.

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The MLAs in a resolution on Monday said the security forces will be able to launch a full-scale operation against Kuki insurgents once the tripartite SoO agreement signed between the Centre, the state and the 25 Kuki insurgent groups is permanently scrapped.

Under the SoO agreement, the insurgents are housed in designated camps. There have been allegations that full attendance at many of the SoO camps has not been observed ever since violence broke out in May last year between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies.

Manipur Security Adviser Kuldiep Singh last week told reporters there was a possibility of insurgents from Myanmar attacking security forces in the border town Moreh, but there was no evidence yet. The Security Adviser had, however, confirmed the involvement of "Kuki militants" in the attack on state forces.

Over 180 have died in the ethnic clashes and thousands have been internally displaced.

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