New Delhi: The paramilitary force Assam Rifles has slapped a legal notice on a Manipur politician over a comment in which he had alleged that members of the forces had been aiding Kuki militants in acts of arson, The Hindu has reported.
In the notice, served on August 18, Assam Rifles said that Maheshwar Thounaojam, who is the national secretary of the Republican Party of India (RPI-Athawale), had done “considerable harm to the reputation and standing of the organisation in the public eye.”
His comments at the ‘Condolence of Meitei Martyrs’ meeting in Delhi on June 30, have been “discouraging and demoralising” to the oldest paramilitary force in the country.
The Hindu reports that the notice mentioned that at the meet, Thounaojam had said, “The villagers also reported that the Assam Rifles has been helping the Kuki militants in order to burn down the village defence force. That means the Assam Rifles has to be removed immediately from Manipur.”
“Is Assam Rifles playing a major role in the violence that has continued for more than two months now? They have to be removed immediately because Kuki militants cannot alone unleash violence at such a large scale. They are getting support from foreign militants and one of our agencies here. Villagers have recorded this,” the notice quoted Thounaojam as having said.
Manipur has been roiled by ethnic violence since May 3, with both sides expressing significant anger against security forces, local police and law enforcement.
The Assam Rifles has claimed in its notice that it had been requisitioned to serve in the state to contain the violence even though “the State of Manipur is not a notified area under AFSPA” – the Armed Force Special Powers Act.
Thounaojam told The Hindu that he will not apologise and cited free speech.
“I did not make a statement, it was a question that I asked. I did not speak as a politician, but as a Meitei. Every Meitei here knows how some Assam Rifles officials dance and sing with Kuki militants, there are videos to prove this. I was merely reiterating something which is known to all Meitei people here,” Thounaojam told the paper.
The Assam Rifles are primarily deployed on the Myanmar border.
It had earlier registered a criminal case against the Meitei civil society organisation COCOMI after the outfit gave a call to people “not to surrender weapons”.