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Retired Army Officer Claims Manipur’s Ethnic Violence Deteriorated after Terrorists Took Over

The ethnic violence in Manipur worsened after the terrorists took over, a top retired Army officer said here on Monday.

Lieutenant-General L Nishikanta Singh (Retd), who served in the Indian Army for 40 years in various capacities and headed the Army’s Intelligence Corps for five years, said that in the initial phase the ethnic trouble in Manipur was community-based mob violence.

“The nature of violence has degenerated as terrorists have subsequently taken over. They are targeting unarmed civilians, which is unacceptable,” he told the media.

He said, “There is a distinction between terrorists, insurgents and militants. Why are the people, those in Jammu and Kashmir or the Al Qaeda called terrorists, whereas people fighting in the northeast are called insurgents? The reason being, in insurgency there is a respect for human lives. Normally, one does not kill for the heck of killing. There is respect for the right to live. Meaning there are some rules applied. But what is happening here is that initially it started off as mob violence. Now, I feel that the terrorists have taken over with no regard for human lives.

“Even after four months the violence continued and most victims were unarmed civilians even with such a massive deployment of central forces on the ground, numbering almost 60,000 personnel.”

On the question of the poor performance of the Central forces in containing the violence so far, the third Lt.-Gen of the Indian Army from northeast India, said that the Central forces must reassess and rethink their strategy as the perpetrators of the violence have changed and so their strategy also needs to change.

“The major challenge for the security forces is, because they believe that these are community-based mobs who aren’t demanding sovereignty, they were probably more lenient as they thought they could negotiate and reason with them. However, the perpetrators of the violence have changed. Hence the security agencies need to rethink on how to deal with the perpetrators,” he observed.

Singh further said proper accommodation and other logistics for the Central forces deployed in the state are other challenges faced by them. For the last four months they are being accommodated in temporary accommodations, away from their families on short notice, bringing only their personal weapons, some unit equipment and their personal clothing and others.

He asserted that when a unit is required to stay for such a long time in an environment like Manipur, they would require certain logistics like permanent accommodation and other basic amenities required for such a long deployment.

Taking into account the difficulties of the security forces, the Union Home Ministry has assured the required budget needed for construction of temporary camps for the forces, a Manipur government official said. The Manipur government is also providing unoccupied government buildings for the accommodation of the Central forces.

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