The Central government is contemplating a gradual withdrawal of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) from conflict-ridden Manipur, according to a report in The Hindu. An unnamed senior government official expressed concerns about the RAF's prolonged exposure to the "anti-insurgency theater," which may not align with their primary training in crowd control and maintaining law and order during protests and communal incidents.
The ongoing conflict between the Meiteis and the Kukis in Manipur, which began on May 3, has resulted in over 200 casualties and displaced nearly 60,000 individuals. Despite a significant presence of central security forces, the state has witnessed cases of rape, murder, looting of police arsenals, and arson.
As per The Hindu, Manipur currently hosts more than 40,000 paramilitary forces, including Indian Army personnel, with ten RAF companies stationed there—eight in the valley districts and two in the hills.
An internal report from the RAF on July 6, available to Scroll, highlighted concerns that most of the force is unarmed, making them vulnerable to attacks in Manipur. The report emphasized the RAF's training in using minimal force to quickly defuse situations with minimal lethality. It recounted an incident on July 4 when an RAF unit was attacked with various weapons by a mob of around 3,000 individuals attempting to loot weapons from a police armory in Thoubal, resulting in one fatality. The RAF noted that, despite dispatching two additional companies to the scene, they were obstructed by a group of Meira Paibis, a community of Meitei women accused of involvement in the state's violence. The presence of sophisticated weapons among the mob was also noted, with the recovery of a 7.62 bullet and a hand grenade lever from the site.
“This poses a threat to security forces particularly the RAF whose primary responsibility is for dealing with riots arising from agitations, bandhs and strikes of religious and communal nature and shall not be deployed in anti-terrorist counter-insurgency operations,” the RAF said in the report. “It is not structured and equipped to counter any insurgency situation. Use of TSMS [tear gas smoke shells] by RAF in such situations may be met with firing from within the mob which may result in loss of precious lives.”
The report also highlighted the absence of senior police officers and magistrates at the scene during such incidents.
“Despite repeated requests magistrates are often unavailable or not provide at critical incidents,” the report added. “This demonstrates a significant insensitivity and lack of coordination with this district resulting in mismanaged crowd control and handling of serious conflicts.”