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AFSPA Extension in Manipur Sparks Protests Amid Ongoing Tensions

Imphal: Manipur, already embroiled in strife, has been placed under the stringent Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for an additional six months, effective from October 1. In an official notice, it was announced that AFSPA would remain in force in the state, with the exception of 19 police stations primarily located in the valley.

This development unfolds against the backdrop of continued protests stemming from the tragic killing of two missing Meitei teenagers, who were allegedly murdered by suspected Kuki militants.

The 19 police station areas excluded from the purview of AFSPA are predominantly inhabited by the Meitei community, including Jiribam, which is adjacent to the Silchar valley of Assam.

With the extension of AFSPA, the Army and Assam Rifles are restricted from operating within the areas covered by these 19 police stations without the consent of the state police.

An official notification issued on the matter read, “Governor of Manipur hereby accords approval to declare the entire state of Manipur excluding the areas falling under the jurisdiction of 19 police stations…as ‘Disturbed Area’ for a period of six months with effect from October 1, 2023.”

The police station areas where the Disturbed Areas Act has not been imposed are: Imphal, Lamphel, City, Singjamei, Sekmai, Lamsang, Pastol, Wangoi, Porompat, Heingang, Lamlai, Iribung, Leimakhong, Thoubal, Bishnupur, Nambol, Moirang, Kakchin, and Jiribam.

The extension of AFSPA has sparked concerns and discussions among various quarters in Manipur. While the Act remains a contentious issue, particularly due to allegations of human rights violations and abuse, there are also arguments in favor of maintaining it to address security concerns in the state.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team, led by the agency’s Special Director Ajay Bhatnagar, arrived in Imphal via a special flight to investigate the alleged “kidnapping and killing” of two students.

The controversy surrounding the disappearance and killing of these two students gained widespread attention after photographs of their bodies circulated on social media. This led to significant protests by students across the state.

On Tuesday, tensions escalated as the police reportedly used tear gas shells and baton-charged protesters in Imphal Valley, resulting in injuries to 45 students, many of whom were girls. These students were demonstrating against the killing of the two youths who had gone missing in July.

Chief Minister N Biren Singh took to X (formerly Twitter) to share information about the CBI’s involvement in the case. He stated, “To expedite this crucial investigation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, along with a specialized team, will be arriving in Imphal tomorrow morning in a special flight. Their presence underscores the commitment of our authorities to swiftly resolve this matter.”

The two missing teenagers, Phijam Hemjit (20) and Hijam Linthoingambi (17), became the focus of public attention when photos of their bodies circulated on social media. One of the images purportedly depicted the students alongside two armed men, while the other showed their lifeless bodies.

The situation in Manipur has remained volatile since May 3, when ethnic clashes erupted in the northeastern state. The clashes began with a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organized in the hill districts, protesting the majority Hindu Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

Meiteis, constituting around 53% of Manipur’s population, predominantly reside in the Imphal valley, while tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, make up approximately 40% and are concentrated in the hill districts. The ongoing unrest has resulted in over 175 casualties and hundreds of injuries, exacerbating tensions within the state.

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