26 June, 2023 | Disha Singh
Despite repeated requests to disperse, the mob, consisting of around 1,200 to 1,500 locals, besieged the area, impeding the security forces from continuing with their operation.
In Manipur’s Imphal district, a large mob of nearly 1,500 individuals, mostly led by women, disrupted a counter-insurgency operation and compelled the Army to release 12 members of the banned Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL) group.
Among the freed individuals was Moirangthem Tamba, also known as Uttam, who was a wanted militant and considered the mastermind behind the 2015 Chandel ambush, which resulted in the deaths of 18 soldiers from the 6 Dogra Regiment and injured 15 others.
This incident unfolded in a series of unprecedented events, starting with the mob entering an area that had been cordoned off to prevent collateral damage. The mob then confronted senior Army officers until the captured militants were released.
The security forces had initiated the operation based on specific intelligence regarding armed militants present in Itham village, located approximately 6 kilometres east of Andro. During the operation, the Army not only apprehended the 12 KYKL cadres but also seized their weapons, ammunition, and other combat equipment.
Despite repeated requests to disperse, the mob, consisting of around 1,200 to 1,500 locals, besieged the area, impeding the security forces from continuing with their operation. Considering the potential casualties and sensitivity surrounding the use of force against a large group, the commanding officer made a compassionate decision to hand over all 12 militants to a local leader, as stated by Lt Col Amit Shukla, the Kohima-based defence PRO. The Army, however, retained the weapons, ammunition, and war-like stores that were confiscated from the militants.
The Army’s statement highlighted that the operational commander’s mature decision exemplified the humane approach of the armed forces, prioritizing the avoidance of collateral damage and preventing further escalation in the volatile situation in Manipur. The operation had been launched in response to the presence of a significant number of armed militants, who were not bound by any ceasefire agreement with the government and were identified as key factor behind the ongoing crisis in the state since May 3.
Numerous instances of mobs obstructing the movement of troops, impeding reinforcements, and disrupting the evacuation of displaced individuals have been reported in various areas since the outbreak of violence. Handing over the ambush mastermind, Tamba, along with the other militants, to a local leader is believed to have been a challenging decision for the Army. Tamba had led a 15-member KYKL team, armed by the banned Naga outfit NSCN (Khaplang), in executing the deadly 2015 ambush.
KYKL is part of a conglomerate of militant groups in Manipur known as CorCom (Core Committee). They claim to be fighting for the restoration of Manipur’s sovereignty and maintain bases in the western region of Myanmar. Last month, CorCom issued a statement alleging that the ongoing crisis in Manipur was part of a plot to divide the state, accusing the central government of deploying additional troops under the pretext of controlling the situation.