Guwahati: The killing of an Assam Rifles Commanding Officer, his family, and four other jawans in a militant ambush in Manipur on Saturday has brought the focus back on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a militant group in Manipur demanding a separate homeland.

On Saturday evening, the PLA claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Commanding Officer of 46 Battalion of Assam Rifles Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife Anuja, their 6-year-old son Abeer, and four jawans.

Colonel Tripathi’s convoy was ambushed by PLA militants near the Sehkan village in Churachandpur district while returning from the Behiang Coy post at about 10 am on Saturday. IEDs were used by the militants before the Assam Rifles personnel engaged them in a firefight.

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In a statement that was initially issued through its Facebook page, the PLA claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was carried out as a joint operation with cadres of the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF).

In a joint release later, the outfits claimed that six personnel of Assam Rifles, including 46 AR Commanding Officer Colonel Viplav Tripathi, were killed in the attack, while many were injured. The group, however, said it was “most unfortunate that the CO’s wife and minor child were part of the convoy” that was attacked, in a statement signed by Roben Khuman of the PLA/RPF and Thomas Numai of the MNPF.

“Unfortunately, the cadres of the two outfits who carried out the attack were not aware that Colonel Viplav Tripathi’s wife and his son were part of the convoy. Indian security forces should not bring their families to a place which has been declared by Government of India as a disturbed area,” the statement said.

The statement added that the “Chief of Army Staff” of the “War Office” expressed gratitude to all those who planned the ambush and helped in the operation. 

What is the People’s Liberation Army?

After splitting from the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), N Bisheshwar Singh formed the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, on September 25, 1978, in an attempt to “liberate and turn Manipur into an independent socialist state.”

According to information provided by the Indian Army, he “formulated a two-fold objection – to liberate the Eastern Region of India comprising the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura and the Union Territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh through a carefully planned revolutionary uprising and to use this as a base for ‘liberating’ the rest of India”.

He emphasised the need for a “War of Independence” with Chinese support on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and Mao’s thoughts. PLA also appealed to the Naga and Mizo ‘revolutionaries’ to jointly fight against the common enemy.

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The PLA’s objective as listed by the Indian Army states, “PLA stands for an independent Manipur and cessation from India to be achieved by principles of Marxism-Leninism and Mao’s thoughts. It also enjoins Naga revolutionaries to join in its fight for Independence.”

In 1989, the PLA formed a political body called the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) to prop up an alternative to mainstream parties. The RPF runs a government-in-exile in Bangladesh, as per the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), which maintains a comprehensive list of insurgent outfits operating in India.

It now has four divisions: Sadar Hill West areas of the Valley of Manipur, Sadar Hill areas in the eastern Valley, the entire hill areas in Manipur and the entire Imphal area. Each division has a commander, lieutenants, sergeant and lance corporals in its ranks, equipped with arms.

PLA is a member of the Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF), an umbrella body of three separatist organisations, including People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and UNLF.

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