Manipur: Volatility Persists in Chandel

Manipur: Volatility Persists in Chandel

Nijeesh N. Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management | 20 Dec 2016

On December 15, 2016, at least three Manipur Police personnel were killed and another 11 were injured when suspected militants ambushed road opening parties (ROPs) of the Manipur Police at two different places in Chandel District. The first ambush occurred at around 6 am [IST] near the Lokchao Bridge in Lokchao village. Two Police constables were killed and 11 were wounded. M-79 grenade launcher shells and spent bullets of M-16 assault rifles were recovered from the ambush site. Around two hours later, a Police team coming from the State capital, Imphal, was attacked in the Bongyang area of the same District, and one Policeman on ROP duty was killed. Though no outfit has claimed the attacks so far, based on a report filed by State Director General of Police (DGP) L.M. Khaute, the Manipur Government sent a report to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) on December 16, 2016, stating that the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was suspected to be behind the twin attacks. Chandel District shares a border with Myanmar.

Earlier on November 26, 2016, at least five troopers of the Army's Para Special Force deployed along the Manipur-Myanmar border sustained serious injuries when militants ambushed a patrol party in the Sajik Tampak area in Chandel District. Though the soldiers retaliated, all the militants managed to escape across the border, taking advantage of the densely forested area. The United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWESEA), claimed responsibility for the attack. For a long time the Sajik Tampak area, which is close to the Myanmar border, was the 'headquarters' of several insurgent groups, but Security Forces (SFs) had eventually pushed them out and established a permanent camp. On April 17, 2015, the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) joined hands with three of the most active terror outfits in the Northeast: the Independent faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I); IK Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS); and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), to form UNLFWESEA. CorCom [Coordination Committee], a conglomerate of six Manipur Valley-based militant outfits have also reportedly extended 'moral support' to the Front.

On October 29, 2016, a non-local shopkeeper, Dharmendra Kumar aka Aju (40), was shot dead by unidentified militants in the Moreh area of Chandel District. The deceased's pregnant wife, Chanda, was also severely injured in the firing. Police said they suspected that the attack was part of a possible extortion bid.

Chandel Distinct had witnessed a major attack on SFs on May 22, 2016, when six Assam Rifles (AR) personnel, including one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were killed, and another seven personnel were injured in an ambush at Hengshi village in the Chakpikarong tehsil (revenue unit) of the District. The militants had triggered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) before opening fire on the AR convoy, which was returning to their Battalion Headquarters at Joupi village in Chakpikarongtehsil of Chandel District, after assessing a landslide in Holingjang. The militants took away four AK-47 rifles, one light machine gun, one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifle and ammunition from the SFs. Notably, on June 4, 2015, in one of the worst militant attacks targeting SFs' in the entire Northeast, 18 Army personnel had been killed and another 11 injured, when militants ambushed a convoy of 46 troopers of the Army's 6 Dogra Regiment at Moltuk village (just about 30 kilometers away from Hengshi village) in the Khengjoy tehsil of the Chandel District.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 11 persons, including two civilians and nine SF personnel, have been reported killed in insurgency-related incidents in the Chandel District during the current year (data till December 18, 2016). During the corresponding period of 2015, the District had recorded 29 fatalities (two civilians, 21 SF personnel and six militants). There were no more fatalities in 2015 thereafter. It was in the year 2007 that the District had recorded its highest number of fatalities, 87, including 22 civilians, 26 SF personnel and 39 militants.

One of the five Hill Districts of Manipur, Chandel was formed on May 13, 1974, and covers an area of 3,313 square kilometers in the south-eastern part of the State. Formerly known as Tengnoupal District, the District Headquarters was shifted to Chandel in 1983, and the District was subsequently renamed Chandel. It is the fourth largest District of Manipur, bordering Myanmar on the south, Ukhrul District on the east, Churachandpur District on the south and west, and Thoubal District to the north. With a population of 144,182 (2011 Census), Chandel is the second least populous District in the State, after Tamenglong. Around 86 per cent of the total population of the District is tribal, from about 20 different tribes, prominently consisting of Anal, Lamkang, Moyon, Monsang, Chothe and Maring (collectively known as old Kuki), Thadou and Zou, as well as Meiteis including Muslims (Meitei Pangal) in small numbers. Nearly 88 per cent of the population lives in a total of 361 villages. Moreh town, the international trade centre of the State, lies on the southernmost part of the District.

Manipur: Volatility Persists in Chandel

Nijeesh N. Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
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