Guwahati: After almost 43 years, magistrates in Manipur joined military combing operations as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been lifted from parts of the state.

“For the first time in Manipur after 1980, the Indian army is conducting military combing operations led or accompanied by a magistrate. Earlier, magistrates were not required under the armed forces special powers act. As AFSPA has been removed from many areas of Manipur, civil administration is required by the military in law and order maintenance,” a defence ministry official told EastMojo.

Manipur Home Commissioner, H Gyan Prakash, through a letter to the district magistrates of Tengnoupal, Churachandpur, Pherzawl, Chandel, and Kamjong Districts on Wednesday stated that due to the prevailing law and order situation in the state, army formations have requested detailing of magistrates for the conduct of combing operations in various districts.

The district magistrates have been directed to detail adequate numbers of executive magistrates for the purpose. In case of any shortfall, magistrates have also been directed to submit necessary proposals to Home Department for declaration of magistrates.

This order comes a day after Prakash wrote a similar letter to the district magistrates of Imphal West, Imphal East, Kangpokpi, Kakching, Bishnupur, and Jiribam.

The Indian army confirmed joint combing operations in Manipur via Twitter. 

“Security Forces launch Joint Combing Operations in Hill and Valley areas across Manipur to dominate sensitive areas and recover snatched weapons and ammunition. Locals in possession of such weapons being urged to surrender them to the Security Forces for the sake of peace & harmony,” it tweeted.

Countering rumours on social media, Dr Vineet Joshi, Chief Secretary, Government of Manipur, said in a statement: “It has been widely circulated in social media that combing operations will be conducted only in the valley districts, which is not correct. Combing operations, if necessary, will be conducted in both the valley and hill areas equally to restore peace in the State. Further, to dispel the misunderstanding among the public, the Deputy Commissioners of the districts of Churachandpur, Pherzawl, Tengnoupal, Chandel and Kamjong have also been advised to detail Executive Magistrates for the operations conducted by the security formations even though AFSPA is in force in these districts.”

The joint operation was launched in the wake of recent interruptions in the peace-keeping process at Manipur. Security forces deployed in the troubled state launched joint operations on Wednesday to comb out weapons and ammunition hidden away by miscreants.

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Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who recently visited the state, appealed to the public to hand over all weapons and ammunition to the administration for maintaining peace and order. The appeal came with a warning about a ‘search-and-combing operation’ plan, which also mentioned that anyone found to possess weapons during the operation would be prosecuted.

As per reports, over 140 weapons were surrendered in Manipur following Shah’s appeal. It has also come to light that security forces recovered around 790 advanced and automatic weapons along with 10,648 rounds of ammunition that were looted by miscreants during the ethnic violence in Manipur last month.

Also read: Manipur: Security forces launch joint combing operation

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