Over six lakh bullets and around 3,000 weapons are still with the warring communities in strife-torn Manipur with officials and experts warning of a resurgence of banned terror groups in the state.
Quoting data collected from various sources, officials closely monitoring the situation here said that .303 rifles, Medium Machine Guns (MMG) and AK assault rifles, carbines, Insas Light Machine Guns (LMG), Insas rifles, M-16 and MP5 rifles were reported to be missing from the armouries of the police in May.
Besides these, around 6 lakh bullets have been found missing during the waves of attacks carried out on police and other security officials from May 3 when the ethnic clashes began in the state with two dominant communities targeting each other.
These attacks have so far claimed over 160 lives. 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. According to the officials, out of the stolen weapons, 2,900 fell in the lethal category whereas others comprised teargas and mini flare guns.
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The looted arms and ammunition were mainly with the rioters in the valley while those in the hills had only 5.31 per cent of such weapons, they said.
The officials and experts have been warning that the present unrest has already seen the resurgence of near dormant banned groups like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People's Liberation Army (PLA), Kanglei Yawol, Kanba Lup (KYKL) and People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) in the state.
The overwhelming support being extended to cadres of these banned organisations was seen on June 24, when Army and Assam Rifles, based on specific intelligence, nabbed 12 members of banned KYKL in East Imphal which included self-styled 'Lt Col' Moirangthem Tamba alias Uttam, one of the masterminds of the ambush on 6 Dogra regiment in 2015 that left 18 army soldiers dead.
Besides this, the officials said that reports of another six to seven top cadres of other banned groups have reached Imphal Valley and were extending support to the ethnic groups based there. "'You can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them to only bite your neighbour.'Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this to Pakistan in 2011 but today it holds good for Manipur where a section of the community is welcoming the return of these terror groups," a senior security official said.
The official said someday there will be a truce and on that day, these so-called 'heroes' would turn the nozzle of their guns towards the community it claimed to be protecting.
The banned groups like the UNLF, which has a cadre strength of nearly 250, have in the past been largely involved in extortion at higher levels like the contractors and businessmen. The PLA, which was initially started under the name of 'Polei', the ancient name of Manipur, had the aim to liberate Manipur and establish an independent Meitei land in Imphal Valley.
The KYKL, which runs on extortion and openly supports other terror groups, is considered a mercenary with no ideologies and cadres mainly drawn from criminals and drug addicts.
The PREPAK, which has been banned by the government for its secessionist ideology of so-called liberation of Manipur and whose funding mainly comes from extortion of businessmen especially pharmacies, indulged mainly in drug trafficking and smuggling.
This terror group also collects extortion on behalf of PLA and UNLF and passes them after retaining a share.
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