Manipur's Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) raised concern about a possible fallout following the bail and subsequent release of five village defence volunteers who were allegedly impersonating as security forces in the state.
"The five men were wearing camouflage dress and carrying sophisticated weapons - one INSAS rifle, one SLR rifle and two 303 rifles-along with ammunition in their vehicle when they were arrested on September 16. They were charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Despite this, members of their community led by women (Meira Paibis) have been protesting for almost a week to demand their release", said ITLF in its press note.
The ITLF further claimed, "The fact that the men were dressed in uniforms shows they had nefarious intent, and the argument that they are volunteers defending innocent villagers' rings hollow. Security forces have repeatedly flagged their concerns about the misuse of police and security force uniforms by Meitei militants, who are using it to get past security barriers to attack Kuki-Zo tribals. Compare this to the May 22 arrest and denial of bail to former tribal MLA TT Haokip, who is accused of instigating two youths including his son to threaten women vendors at a market. Police said they recovered registered weapons from his home. But even after four months, women vendors of the said market have not identified Mr. Haokip and his son in the case and, significantly, police have not been able to file charges. Mr Haokip's counsel also submitted that his client was 71 years old and suffered from various ailments. Despite all these factors, Mr Haokip has been unable to get bail
The tribal's forum allege that the release of the five men will only encourage the misuse of uniforms by radicals in the community, who may feel that even if they are caught, the law will not go down hard on them.
Also read : Manipur: Fresh clashes break out following re-arrest of one out of five released village defence volunteers in Kongba
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