Many had condemned the looting of arms and ammunition from police armouries in the early days of the unrest which began on May 3, 2023. We shall not go into the matter of where exactly did the looting of guns started as it happened in both hills and the valley, although some vested interests are trying to spread the message that it happened in the valley only.
Yes, one cannot agree more with the fact that the number of arms looted in the valley are huge in figures. Yet, it would be more prudent to start with a question as to how well armed are the civilian population in the state. In the valley, it is mostly VVIPs and neo-rich who are licence holders of arms while in the hills even the common folk own licence guns for purposes of hunting or otherwise. And of course, there is the factor of unaccounted guns including the country-made variety which one has seen in recent times.
So, when the present unrest and attacks from the surrounding hills started there were only a few licensed guns in the peripheral villages which was a pittance as compared to the licensed guns in the hills and the sophisticated variety which was supposed to be in the Malkhanas of designated SoO camps.
And the need to arm themselves and protect their villages practically forced them in the direction of police armouries. The question of justification aside, that is exactly how it happened. And that is why, the womenfolk in the valley protested the arrest of village volunteers and combing operations aimed at gathering the looted weapons. Their basic argument is that, if at all there has to be operations it should be both in the hills and the valley and again the sporadic attacks and frequent clashes should be put to a stop before such operations.
Anyone who has little knowledge of the complex nature of arms scenario would feel amused by such an argument and they need to come out of the cocoon of an armchair. Well, let us invite them here in Manipur and tell them to wet their feet before passing judgments.
We understand Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s directive to state authorities for undertaking the task of recovering the looted arms. The question is when and how. Presently, widespread combing operations had started in both the hills and the valley under the direction of the security advisor. But, the recovery of looted arms is still limited while unaccounted country-made guns seized are plenty which bespoke of a design to cater to an audience.
On the other hand, a general notification issued through the District Magistrates of various districts has asked the holders of arms licenses issued by the magistrate to submit the arms licenses along with the registered arms by March 1 to the respective police stations as mentioned in the arms license.
Failing to comply with the notification will result in the cancellation of the license without further notice, it had added. Now, district authorities need to come up with reports on this. It might be said now that, the general situation is slowly inching towards normalcy with occasional incidents. There is also a need to address the issue of armed gunmen looting houses and creating panic among the general population.
The other day, some gunmen fired at an unsuspecting crowd injuring five innocents. Before that, a house in Imphal East was robbed of jewellery and cash and a hand grenade was left at the residence of a member of Youth of Manipur. There might be numerous unreported incidents involving guns also as there are still so many guns at large.
The mental state of a person having a gun starts changing as soon as he or she acquires the gun and feels it in their hands and the smell of gunpowder stimulates a hidden power in him.
A gun holder begins looking at every situation even if unthreatening through the prism of the barrel. So, there were instances of pulling out guns in even domestic squabbles. Add to that, when the said licensed gun holder is tipsy or drunk. Most sadly, it has become a prestige symbol in recent times.