Guwahati: Eastern Army commander Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita on Tuesday said more than 6,000 arms have been looted from security forces since ethnic violence between Kuki and Meitei communities erupted in Manipur on May 3.
Of them, 1,500 arms have been recovered from commoners while more than 4,500 arms are still in the open.
“There are some legacy issues between three communities — Kuki, Meitei and Nagas — living in Manipur due to which normalcy has not returned to the state even after more than six and half months of the beginning of the clashes,” Lt Gen Kalita, who is the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, said speaking as the Guest of Guwahati Press Club here.
Kalita said both communities have completely got polarized. Even as the level of violence has come down, more than 4,000 arms and ammunition that were looted from various police personnel and other places are yet to be recovered.
“Out of 5,000 weapons, only 1,500 were recovered, but more than 4,000 arms are still out. Till the time these weapons are out in society, the sort of sporadic violence will continue,” Kalita said.
“Weapon smuggling and drugs trafficking along the India-Myanmar border have been checked, even as there are some isolated instances. Since 4,000 weapons are already out in the open I think there is no requirement for weapons to come from outside,” he said.
Describing the clash between Kuki and Meitei communities as a political problem, Lt Gen Kalita said earlier also there had also been conflicts between Kukis and Nagas in the 1990s in which almost 1,000 people were killed.
Replying to a question on immigration from Myanmar due to the unrest in the neighbouring country, the army general said: ”India is giving shelter to every unarmed person who seeks refuge, but armed cadres of various militant groups and drug traffickers are not allowed to enter in.”
“Our efforts are on to control the violence and motivate both sides to come for a peaceful settlement But, ultimately, there has to be a political solution to their issues,” Kalita said.
“Initially our duty was to carry out rescue and relief operations for the people who were displaced from their houses during the clashes. Later we put all efforts into containing the largely successful violence. But because of polarization between Kukis and Meiteis, some sporadic violence keeps taking place here and there,” Kalita also said.
“The problem of the Indo-Myanmar border gets accentuated because of the difficult geography and terrain conditions and lack of development. The border is porous and the people from the same ethnicity on both sides of the border, a lot of free movement takes place and it becomes difficult for the forces managing the border to identify who the people from India and who are from Myanmar,” Kalita also said.
“There will also be a proper identification which is carried out that the undesirable elements are segregated. We get in touch with MEA and Myanmar Embassy in Manipur and then handed over it to Myanmar forces,” he said.
“The directions are very clear. No armed cadres will be allowed to come. Any armed cadre trying to come is addressed in an appropriate manner. There is a definite check on people with drugs and arms, and anybody caught is handed over to the police following due procedure,” he added.