Imphal: Protests against the Assam Rifles continue to gain momentum in Ukhrul, with the Forum Against Corporatisation and Militarisation (FACAM), New Delhi joining the protests to strongly condemned the Assam Rifles for allegedly occupying nine Naga villages of Ukhrul and Kamjong districts of Manipur.
The forum demanded the Centre to immediately withdraw Assam Rifles from the villages, and repeal the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, from the region.
In a statement issued on Saturday, FACAM stated that the intrusion and occupation of the villages do not have the consent of the Naga Village councils and the Tangkhul indigenous people, to whom the land belongs.
“The Indian state has been mocking its own Constitution by constantly violating Article 371 (A) of the constitution, through such intrusions, land grabbing, and the atrocities of the past and the present, and granting them impunity under draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act,” stated FACAM.
FACAM pointed out that over 5,000 people took to the streets of Ukhrul to participate in a rally on Thursday, organised by the Tangkhul civil society organisations, to mount pressure on the Central and State governments for the immediate withdrawal of the security forces from the nine Tangkhul villages where the troops have set up military camps/bases without the consent of the villagers on Thursday.
Troops of Assam Rifles have reportedly occupied land and set up camps and bases at Khamasom Wallely, Mapum, Poi, Tusom CV and Lamlang villages in Ukhrul district and Kangpat Khullen, Chatric Khunou, Ramphoi and Kasom Khullen in Kamjong district without the consent of the villagers.
Naga villages facing several challenges
Speaking to EastMojo, Khamasom village headman AS Vaomi informed that in 2021, Assam Rifles troops came and requested village authority’s permission to set up base in the village, which was private property. Since the landowners refused, the security forces left.
In May 2022, however, the troops headed by a Captain, requested the village authority again on the pretext of staying for a few days. Since then, they have not left and continue to occupy the village community hall, alleged Vaomi.
According to the village chief, the villagers have been requesting the Assam Rifles troop verbally and in writing, to vacate the community hall and seek an alternative and suitable accommodation to respect public sentiment, but they continue to station in the village.
“Their prolonged presence in the village has put us in an awkward situation because we are unable to have public gatherings or events since they have occupied the hall. Women in the village feel unsafe due to their presence amidst the locals,” said Vaomi.
Having experienced a similar situation, Wungnaoyo A Shimray, headman, Poi village, mentioned that the troops have been forcefully stationing in the village since 2018, citing that the order was from higher authorities.
“We had a public meeting after they wanted to set up base in the village. The House passed a resolution of not allowing any outsiders to stay/settle in the village, including the Assam Rifles due to increase in population and scare area of public land,” said Shimray.
Since then, we have been fighting legally in the apex bodies, but they continue to station saying that it’s from the higher authority order, he added.
At present, troops of Assam Rifles have set their military camp near the Border Pillar no 126 in Poi village, which is less than 1 kilometre from village habitation.
Shimray said that Assam Rifles have set up a check post at the entry and locals are being subjected to scrutiny each time they cross the point. Village women have stopped attending to the paddy fields unescorted after the troops set up camp. Men of the village have to acompany the women as since they don’t feel secure.
He also claimed that the village livestock, including calves, are often attacked and killed by the Assam Rifles’ dogs. “That is why we often argue for compensation,” Shimray said.
“It is not about physical assault or torture at the hands of the security forces. But their very existence in the village premises creates a ‘fear psychosis’ among locals as many elders have not recovered from their trauma caused by the Indian Army in the past,” added Ningreishang, headman, Chatric village.
EastMojo tried to reach out to the Assam Rifles officials, however, we did not receive a response. This story will be updated as and when and if we receive a response.
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