Why does one find it hard to really believe the gruesome killings of 13 Meitei youth at Laithao village near the Indo-Myanmar border is the handiwork of Kuki militants only while having a nagging feeling of an unseen hand somewhere despite the official version. Were they sacrificial lambs or victims of geo-political considerations? No one will know for sure.
Nowadays, we have a habit of assuming that the Kuki militants are naturally involved in the said killings although it was a first instance of unrest reaching such a remote region. Both Kuki and Naga villages are in the vicinity of the massacre and there is always a tight vigil by border patrols around the place.
The recent operations in Moreh border area by state forces against Kuki militant groups after the murder of Manipur Police Service (MPS) officer and the subsequent detection of several Myanmar illegals in and around Moreh had embarrassed the border guarding force Assam Rifles enough to ignite an intensified patrolling along the border as charges of slack in border management keeps piling up.
Even the widespread allegations of partiality towards the Kukis were washed off by media images of the heroic rescue of state force reinforcement by Assam Rifles troops on the Pallel-Moreh highway and the IGAR South himself coming down to Moreh and rubbishing the allegations of human rights violations by state forces telling the Kukis to shut up.
Coming back to the killing of 13 Meitei youth, the victims were mostly from villages and fringe areas which bore the brunt of unceasing attacks from Kuki militants. They were somehow sucked into a war having no relation to aspirations and their means of livelihood, just that they happened to be Meiteis living in the fringe areas and easy targets for the ethnic onslaught.
A question posed by social media warriors belonging to the Kuki community was that whatever they were doing in that remote village near the border as a group. Some say, they were new recruits of a valley-based insurgent group waiting to sneak across the border. It could be true, as security analysts had been talking about a spurt in recruitment by valley-based insurgent groups in the wake of the recent ethnic clashes.
Given the vice-like grip of the valley by Kuki villages all around and militants with SoO stamped on their foreheads roaming around with sophisticated weapons attacking Meitei villages without hindrance leading to vigilante groups springing up among the Meitei youth while cries of help and protection to central forces going unheard, the valley became a fertile ground for underground recruitment. Security agencies were worried, but they did nothing.
The developing geo-politics in the region and a full-scale war across the border seems to have consumed the minds of the Indian security establishment on how best to deal with the Meitei insurgent groups. While the NSCN (I-M) had been ‘immobilised’ with a ceasefire and peace talks and the numerous Kuki militant groups brought under the loop of Suspension of Operations (SoO), only the valley-based insurgent groups remained bidding their time across the border. Many of these insurgent groups had been fighting shy of peace talks. It would not be presumptuous to say that given the nature of talks with NSCN (I-M) continuing over the years with not a tangible solution in sight, they are indeed wary of such a predicament. NSCN (I-M) had been negotiating with the Government of India through interlocutors since 1997.
On the other hand, the civil war in Myanmar and an uncertain future Meitei insurgents taking shelter across the border seems to be caught between the devil and deep sea. In such a situation, it is but natural for the Indian security establishment to strengthen the border vigil to check cross-border movement. Given the circumstances, the border force would have grabbed at the opportunity of nabbing the Meitei youths trying to sneak across the border and it would have been an achievement. Yet the question still remains, from where or whom the Kuki militants received the inputs of the border-crossing?