Combing operation to recover arms begins tomorrow; new security grid for Manipur; buffer zones created between Kuki and Meitei settlements; Naga MLAs called to Delhi to meet Amit Shah.

A month after Manipur was engulfed in ethnic violence, 18% of the more than 4,000 weapons looted from police armouries have been surrendered with the authorities, a senior government official told The Hindu.

During his visit to the State from May 29 to June 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to the offenders to surrender the weapons before the police. He said a combing operation would begin soon and strict action against them would follow.

The weapons were looted in two phases — when violence erupted on May 3, nearly 1,600 weapons were taken away and from May 27 to 28, ahead of Mr. Shah’s visit, 2,557 were looted. Most weapons were looted from police camps and armouries in the valley. Other than sophisticated weapons such as assault rifles, grenades and mortar bombs were also looted. A senior government official said on condition of anonymity that most weapons were given away to groups belonging to the same community as those deployed in the police camps. In some cases, the weapons were taken away after huge mobs gheraoed police camps.

In all, 789 arms and 10,648 ammunition pieces were recovered till Sunday. After Mr. Shah’s appeal, a total of 202 arms, 252 ammunition pieces and 92 bombs were recovered.

Kuldiep Singh, Manipur government’s security adviser and chief of the newly created inter-agency unified command, told The Hindu that politicians in several areas had sought more time to convince the people to surrender the weapons.

More time sought

“The crackdown was to begin last week, but the political leaders have sought more time. We have decided to give them three more days following which a combing operation will follow from June 6,” Mr. Singh said. He added that the Kuki groups that are in a Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the government were being monitored. “Their camps are under watch, some parts of weapons were found missing,” Mr. Singh said.

To control the ethnic violence between the Meitei and the Kuki communities, the unified command has created a security grid for the valley and the hills. Buffer zones have been created between the valley, where Meiteis live, and in the hills, where Kukis live, to stop any kind of clash or arson. “The Army and the Assam Rifles are patrolling the hills, while the Central Armed Police Force has been deployed in the buffer zones — the junction where the hills and valley meet. Further down this layer, the patrolling is being done by the local police,” Mr. Singh said.

Following a demand by Kuki MLAs in the Manipur Assembly, which includes seven members from the BJP, for a separate administration, the home minister has called 10 Naga MLAs for a meeting in New Delhi this week. The Naga legislators, also tribals and from the hills, have distanced themselves from the demand of the Kukis.

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