Many believed that the security establishment had utilised the services of the Kuki militants in its efforts to curb the Naga insurgents and the Valley-Based UG (VBUG) in Manipur. And, despite clarifications, it is believed that Moreh was made a Kuki-dominated town only with the help of the security apparatus. This was also reinforced by the Suspension of Operation (SoO), which was signed by the security establishment with various Kuki militant groups in 2005, despite the fact that there were no clashes between them.
None of the Kuki groups were declared as unlawful and the Manipur government was roped in in 2008 after the state forces arrested a few Kuki militants. How the State was roped in to the SoO is open and will be a part of history.
It was also believed that taking opportunity of the present conflict, intervention was not made early to put pressure on the Meitei with the hope that cadres of VBUGs will cross over the border and then conduct a major operation to mount pressure on them to either surrender or sign a ceasefire agreement or a suspension of operation.
All groups had not joined the conflict is clear due to various reasons, including ideological and the number joining is not that large as anticipated earlier.
Some interesting development had occurred such as the request of the SpearCorps requesting the Editors Guild of India (EGI) to conduct a fact finding mission on the perceived biasness of the Imphal based media, the report of which fell flat on the face of the EGI and the credibility of it was seriously impaired, especially when they refuse to divulge the details of those who contributed to the mission.
The removal of the barricades on the National Highway to Churachandpur and others is another pointer as also the occupation of some of the bunkers erected by the Kuki in the Bishnupur-Churachandpur sector by the Central Security Forces (CSF) with the intent to stop taking pot shots by the Kuki on the Meitei settlements and farms.
Another pointer is the abduction of one person from Pheidinga-Tendongyan allegedly by 21 Para and the total silence on it and only after a hue and cry was raised was he handed over to the state police. The reason of his arrest was never divulged.
The standoff between the Assam Rifles and the public, including armed volunteers (as claimed by the security agencies), resulting in the death of two civilians at Pallel is another pointer to what may come up in the near future.
Another incident is the arrest of five persons from the Village Defence Force with sophisticated weapons and despite large-scale turmoil for their release they were not. In fact with such weapons, it will be next to impossible for the police to release them unconditionally.
The attack on Thawai Kuki and the ambush near Ireng took the conflict into another dimension with the Meitei changing tactics and indicating that any attack on Meitei settlements can be retaliated with similar strikes.
The induction of more companies of CSF after the Amarnath Yatra indicates that more attempts are being made to control the conflict.
The advice of the Union Home Minister to a few ruling party MLAs to reign in the Meira paibis and the conflict can be resolved within 10 days was another pointer.
Although the Manipur government had refuted this statement, none believed the refutation as the state government has no locus standii and the clarification should come either from the Union Home minister himself or the MLAs.
Further, it can infer that the problem was due to the activities of the Meira paibis, which is totally unacceptable and far from the reality.
The threat of withdrawal of the Rapid Action Force due to their inability to operate in conditions where firing had occurred from the public side is also a cause of serious concern though there is no possibility to confirm the allegations. In fact, the first 10 companies were replaced after about two months due to extreme conditions in which they operate.
There have been reports that the security along the international border has been strengthened with special force and specialised border guard personnel like ITBP and BSF. The relation between the security agencies and the Meitei public has come to such a pass that there is severe trust deficiency on both sides. The left liberal national media and social media are making a serious effort to demonise the Meira Paibis though with limited success as yet.
The narratives that those in police commando dresses are militants are doing the round in both the social media and official circles.
The offer of the Union Defence Minister to a delegation for providing IAF’s planes to destroy the poppy plantations provided the state government request for it must be taken advantage of.
The summer crop of poppy is now in the harvest stage and after proper analysis of the latest satellite imagery and identification of the area under poppy cultivation with coordinates paraquat can be sprayed aerially.
When one mentions aerial spraying of herbicides, one tends to relate to Agent Orange used in Vietnam that had caused tremendous destruction.
Agent Orange is a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D with dioxin as adulterant and as the main herbicides are volatile it caused havoc, besides dioxin being highly carcinogenic. Paraquat is toxic to both human and animals when ingested; and moderately toxic when applied to skin but the droplet size while spraying is not conducive for inhalation and is considered safer.
However, as all poppy patches are already sprayed with glyphosate four times in a season, an additional dose of herbicides will not matter much.
Most of the poppy plantations are winter crop so the present area will not be that large and is mostly confined in Churachandpur area as informed.
The only issue is whether the IAF have the necessary attachment for aerial spraying. Kuki will not fire on IAF aircraft as they will do anything not to displease the CSF in the state.
The ball is in the court of the state government and its follow-up action will indicate whether they are really serious about the War on Drug 2.0.
The abduction and killing of one personnel of the Defence Service Corps can be seen as a bad incident. None had made the claim for the act and the reason is still unknown. But the abduction from Langol and the killing at Khuningthek points that the perpetrators has to be from the valley. This incident and the large-scale public curfew against the arrest of five Village Defence Volunteers will set the ball rolling for the CSF to plan for the next step.
With the reduction of firing from the hills which the CSF will make all efforts to contain it even to the extent of threatening the Kuki armed groups of retaliatory fire, the stage is set for the next step which is disarmament of the civilians armed with sophisticated weapons mainly looted from the police armouries. This will also entail massive combing operations with the dual objective of rounding up cadres from the VBUGs to put pressure on the leadership to come to a ceasefire agreement.
With the available manpower, the CSF will not be able to conduct large-scale combing operations in both the hills and the valley though they can do so in the valley and in the hill areas neighbouring the valley. This will again lead to charges that CSF is biased towards the Kuki and their will be serious public opposition to such operations in the valley and Manipur may again see the situation that prevailed in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The Meira Paibis will be in the forefront and with the large-scale displacement of people from Churachandpur, Moreh and other villages near Chandel and Churachandpur, the resistance will be far greater than in the past.
The operation may be successful in recovering the looted arms but cornering the militants as believed may not be that easy as they can cross the border easily probably with new recruits despite deployment of forces along the border as the border is too long and it is next to impossible to patrol the entire stretch. There can be encounters here and there but apprehending or even liquidation will not be easy.
Meanwhile, surgical strikes like operations may be conducted in non-vulnerable areas.
The Meitei has the habit of quarrelling among themselves over small things wasting lots of time and energy and need to concentrate on the main issue of ensuring the territorial integrity and the system of administration of the state and the way to rehabilitate and resettle the displaced persons in their original locations. But, from the pointers indicated above, a major cordon and search operation is highly likely and that soon, as the monsoon is extremely mild this year.
(The views expressed are personal)