Manipur: What transpired in Nungba, where Assam Rifles allegedly planted a bomb?
CRPF personnel Thiyam Ashok Singh

Barely a week after the massive protest in Ukhrul district against the increased Army deployment in 9 villages, residents of a Naga village allegedly caught a CRPF personnel planting a live bomb between the Puiluanh village and the Nungba town on the behest of 39 Assam Rifles Nungba COB Post Company Commander Rahul Kumar, Nungba, Tamenglong district. 

Thiyam Ashok Singh, a CRPF personnel, aged about 35, reportedly admitted in front of the public and at the Village Court of planting a live bomb trap on the highway at Puiluanh Village, under the Nungba sub-division on September 24, 2022. Wearing civilian clothes, Ashok was allegedly moving about suspiciously and was apprehended by the women, who then took him to the village court after his initial confession of planting the live bomb. In the village court, Singh reportedly confessed the second time in front of his CRPF Post commander that he was directed by Rahul Kumar to do so.  

The trial held at the Puiluanh village community hall was participated by 12 village authority members, women, youth leaders, and village elders and personnel from the CRPF led by Assistant Commandant KK Tungnung AC 87 BN of the CRPF. The Judgment of the Pei (Thoubei) Customary Court of Puiluanh (Kambiron) Village dated September 24, 2022 signed by both parties, reads: 

“The Puiluanh (Kambiron) Village were celebrating the Memorial Stone Renovation Program of the 75th Death Anniversary of Haipou Jadonang on 24th September 2022. During the ongoing program, Mr. Thiyam Ashok Singh, CRPF 055154631 was caught by the villagers on a suspicious act of planting a live bomb in the residence area of the village. On further interrogation, he revealed and pleaded guilty to the act charged against him. Mr Thiyam Ashok Singh was brought to the customary court (Thoubei) of the Puiluanh (Kambiron) Village. According to the customary law “Buman Baengmun Khaitmei (to prevent vengeance against the convicted) “Guak ku pugu” (five hand span) pig was brought to the court.” 

“Mr. Thiyam Ashok  Singh was tried and found guilty by the law of customary court. Being found guilty the court hereby order the convicted (Mr. Thiyam Ashok Singh) to bring “Guai kachei zaksunmei” (Baffalo with arm-length horn) by 28th September 2022 to the court. The court also hereby issued a stern order to the CRPF 87 BN that if this kind of criminal act is repeated against the public, by the CRPF 87 BN, the Batallion should be removed from the Kambiron Village soil.”

Puiluanh (Kambiron), a village home to about 150 households, is the birthplace of the highly-celebrated freedom fighter Haipou Jadonang and the villagers were hosting a program to commemorate his 75th death anniversary. Two high-profile NSCN leaders were scheduled to attend the memorial stone renovation programme as chief guests and guests of honour. Puiluanh (Kambiron) is about 13 km from Nungba, home to an Assam Rifles camp that has repeatedly been confronted by the public for creating bomb threats.

A joint statement signed by the head of the five associations: the Nungba Area Village Authority Association (NAVAA), RNCM Luangba Lungrian, RNLPM Luangba Luangrian, RNSOM Luangba Luangrian and the NAJAC, vehemently condemned the planting of a live bomb on Saturday by personnel of the CRPF at Puiluanh (Kmbiron), a revered historical village of national freedom fighter, Haipou Jadonang at the behest of 39 Assam Rifles, Nungba Outpost.

Locals say this is not the first time 

The collective statement from the civil society organisations (CSOs) expressed concern and pointed out that this is the fourth incident in the recent past where the AR had created bomb threats and terrorised locals, creating tension and mistrust in peace zones. “The planting of live fatal bombs by the Indian security forces who claim to be the security of the people at the exact village of the freedom fighter Haipou Jadonang who is revered by all walk of life is an utter surprise but not unexpected and not a new subject, an act of cowards who can never be trusted,” it said.

While urging like-minded CSOs and people to support in condemning such an inhuman incident, the collective demanded the concerned authorities book and punish the Assam Rifles and CRPF personnel involved in the heinous crime. They warned that if the administration failed to do so, people would not remain a mute spectator and would start a wave of democratic agitations. While denouncing the direct and continuous involvement in the act of terrorism against the innocent public by security forces, the group called on the Indian Government and security forces to stop such barbarism.

Incident noted in the case diary, but why no FIR?

The police OC, Nungba, in a conversation with this reporter, said the incident has already been entered in the case diary as reported by 39 AR and further inquiry began on September 26, 2022. The OC added that an FIR could not be registered on account of a mere “suspicious object which was already cleared/ burned by Assam Rifles”. He also said that by the time a bomb disposal squad came to gather information, the Assam Rifles had already disposed of it. The 39AR post company commander Rahul Kumar, when contacted by this reporter, refused to comment on the allegations and incident. He said the situation is under control and the traffic movement on the highway has resumed normally.

According to Kakaodai Gangmei, Chairman, Puiluanh (Kambiron) Village and Daichuipao, President, Rongmei Naga Students Organisation Manipur (RNSOM), locals had seen the CRPF and AR moving together on Saturday around 1-1.30 AM. Later, at around 7:30 am, the highway was blocked by the Assam Rifles and Territorial Armyon following a bomb alert, allowing only limited medical and other emergencies.

After CRPF Thiyam Ashok Singh confessed that he was given the direction by 39 AR post commandant, there was a call from the Assam Rifles to the village chairman, enquiring if the convict was released and the chairman told the AR personnel that AR is implicated in the confession. The Jiri CRPF Commander called and requested the chairman to wait for his arrival before they began the traditional trial. On his arrival, Assistant Commandant KK Tungnung AC 87 BN CRPF immediately asked his junior personnel if he had committed the crime in front of the public. When Thiyam Ashok Singh admitted his guilt before his commander, the senior told him that he would have to go to jail for a criminal case and that he would be terminated from service, after which the customary trial began. 

The village also imposed Rs 1 lakh fine on the CRPF for disrupting the scheduled village programme and disrespecting the village.

“The 39AR post had recently replaced the 10AR about a month ago. On getting the report, I drove to the spot which was crowded by Assam Rifles and Territorial Army. They stopped my car but I managed to drive to the bomb spot. There was nothing there: not even a remnant of the burnt item by the time I arrived. I only saw the police leaving,” shared Daichuipao.

A combined Naga apex bodies team of United Naga Council, Naga Women Union, All Naga Student Association Manipur and units visited the Puiluanh village on Monday and discussed the security issue with the locals.

NSCN condemns, CM Biren promises inquiry

The NSCN issued a strong condemnation statement, calling the incident ‘outrageous.’ 

“People from the village coming to attend the Jadonang Memorial program were frisked by the joint team of the 39th AR at Nungba under the commandership of Major Rahul and Major Anil of the 39th AR Kaimai outpost. During the frisking and checking of all vehicles, nonsensical questions like ‘Is there any IM cadres’ and ‘Is the two elders coming for the program?’ were asked. The unfolding development in the next moment only exposed the absurdity of the Indian security forces determined to disrupt peace and harmony of the village in general and in particular, put the life of Mr Longchaibi Gonmei, Kilonser and Brig. Lovejoy Jajo, the Commander of Jadonang Brigade, Naga Army in grave danger as they are supposed to attend the renovation program of Jadonang Memorial as Chief Guest and Guest of Honour respectively.”

“The use of IED to cause panic and dread is highly unwarranted given the peaceful conduct of the villagers led by the CSOs, the local Civil Courts and the public leaders in any situation. The detained CRPF cadre was treated very fairly after he was put in public custody. To settle the matter amicably, an agreement was signed between the CRPF and the village court. Accordingly, the CRPF man was set free but after giving him a strong warning. Unfortunately, the whole situation is downright bizarre. NSCN outrightly deplores such an act of cowardice by the 39th AR and the 87th CRPF,” the statement added. 

Chief Minister N Biren responding to a query said, “An inquiry has been initiated by a police team led by Additional DGP to probe the incident. The Government is meant to protect the rights and lives of the people.” 

Following this incident, the Assam Rifles released a rebuttal statement on Monday, denying its involvement. “The Assam Rifles strongly deny undertaking any activity against the interests of local populace and remains committed to the security and well-being of the people of North East.”

Several organisations called for a total shutdown in all Naga districts for one hour at noon on Tuesday, during which time they took out a huge rally.  

Placards inscribed with ‘Bomb Planting Experts, Terror Experts, Terror Masters’ reflected the public emotions against Assam Rifles and CRPF during the rally. Locals demanded that the rank and file involved in the Puiluanh incident be immediately booked and exemplary action be taken against them. They also demanded the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 from all the Naga areas and to create a congenial atmosphere for peaceful Indo-Naga settlement.

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