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Rights

For ‘Defaming Meiteis,’ Vigilante Groups Force Apology From Former Cop, Vandalise Activist’s House

The United Nations Human Rights office has said it is alarmed by the threats.

New Delhi: Members of two radical organisations, the Meitei Leepun and the Arambai Tenggol, on Thursday (October 5) reached the houses of two prominent Manipur figures – human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam and former Manipur Police Services (MPS) officer Thounaojam Brinda – accusing them of defaming the Meitei community.

The United Nations Human Rights office has said it is alarmed by threats to Babloo Loitongbam “for speaking out on inter-communal violence since May.”

It added, “We urge authorities to protect him, his family and home, and hold perpetrators accountable.”

The groups demanded both to remain silent and refrain from giving interviews to any media organisation. Babloo and Brinda, who are Meiteis themselves, have been critical of Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh.

Babloo’s house was vandalised, The Wire has learnt. Pictures received by The Wire from sources on the ground show the extent of damage to the residence. A wooden chair was used to shatter his car’s windshield and one of its windows.

Meanwhile, at Brinda’s residence, the group demanded that she record herself making an apology to the Meitei Leepun, the Arambai Tenggol, and the entire Meitei community. A video accessed by The Wire shows Brinda being coerced into making this apology and threatened if she refuses. The mob claims in the video that they have been “sacrificing their lives” for the Meiteis since May 3.

Additionally, Manoharmayum Barish Sharma, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in Manipur, urged the state police to file an FIR against Brinda for allegedly defaming the Meitei community. BJYM is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth organisation.

In a letter to the Superintendent of Police, Imphal West District, the BJYM leader mentioned an audio recording circulating on social media in which Brinda stated that the ongoing Manipur ethnic clashes had been incited by Arambai Tenggol/Meitei Leepun since May 3, 2023, allegedly under the advice of Manipur’s chief minister N. Biren Singh. The letter also claimed that Brinda had caused irreparable damage and harm to CM Biren and the state government, damaging their public image. 

The Wire was unable to reach the Imphal West superintendent of police regarding the Babloo and Brinda matter despite multiple attempts.

The Arambai Tenggol and the Meitei Leepun are named as accused in multiple FIRs registered in the hill areas of the state, where the Kuki-Zo are in the majority. Many members of tribal communities have accused the groups of participating in violence.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Brinda alleged that Biren Singh was “part of the drug cartel” in the state, detailing how she was pressured to drop a sensational drug case in 2018.

Babloo recently told The Wire that a peace process in Manipur is unlikely to begin until Biren Singh is in power. He said that the BJP should remove Singh as the chief minister.

Recently, the Arambai Tenggol, which had claimed to have been dissolved, organised a rally in Manipur’s capital of Imphal. 

Violence on ethnic lines continues in Manipur. A Manipur Police press release issued on October 5 stated, “Over the last 24 hours, the situation in the state has been tense but under control, with sporadic incidents of firing, arson, and gatherings of protestors.” It added that security forces conducted search operations in the fringe and vulnerable areas of Thoubal, Imphal-West, Kakching, Churachandpur, and Kangpokpi Districts.