The Imphal Valley in Manipur remained peaceful but tense on Friday, however intermittent gunfights between militant groups and security forces were reported from the hill districts surrounding the valley.
The exchanges of fire between militant groups, who have involved themselves in the ethnic clashes in the state, and security forces were reported at Kangvai in Churachandpur district, western hill range of Phougakchao in adjoining Bishnupur district and Dolaithabi and Pukhao in Imphal East district, a senior police officer said.
However, it was not immediately known whether there was any casualty on either side. Over 6,000 soldiers from the Army and the Assam Rifles have been deployed in the state and more brought in by road from Nagaland and by air using C17 Globemaster and AN 32 transport aircraft of the IAF from Assam. Officials said the Army’s Sikh regiment is currently carrying out rescue operations in Langol in Imphal West district, shifting out over 500 people to safe shelters in the Leimakhong army camp.
The defence PRO, in a statement, said, “The situation has been brought under control through coordinated actions by all stakeholders. The Indian Air Force (IAF) undertook continuous sorties from two airfields in Assam employing C17 Globemaster and AN 32 aircraft.” “Induction commenced on the night of May 4 and additional columns commenced domination with effect from wee hours of May 5. Domination & evacuation of civilians of all communities from affected areas continued throughout the night. Flag march in Churachandpur and other sensitive areas are underway,” it added.
Fifty-five columns of Army and Assam Rifles have been deployed and 14 more have been kept in reserve, defence officials said. Violence first erupted in Torbung area in Churachandpur district during the Tribal Solidarity March organised by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) on Wednesday to protest the demand of Meiteis for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The march was organised by tribals — including Nagas and Kukis — after the Manipur High Court asked the state government last month to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status by the Metei community.
During the march in Torbung, an armed mob allegedly attacked people of the Meitei community, leading to retaliatory attacks in the valley districts, which escalated the violence throughout the state, police said.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals, who include Nagas and Kukis, account for another 40 per cent of the population and live mostly the hill districts which surround the Valley.
Two shopping malls in New Checkon and Chingmeirong areas of Imphal city were vandalised and torched by an angry mob on Thursday evening.
People were not seen gathering in large numbers or venturing out of their houses in Imphal and other areas on Thursday night as patrolling was intensified on the streets, he said.
A tribal MLA, Vunzagin Valte, of Thanlon constituency was critically injured and was undergoing treatment at a hospital after he was assaulted by a mob on Thursday, the officer said.
Multiple sources said the fighting between communities had left more than a score of people dead and several scores more injured. However, the police were unwilling to confirm this.
The violence between majority Meiteis and tribals over demand of the former for ST status has displaced over 9,000 people from both communities. Many affected people are taking shelter in camps of security forces.
The Manipur government has given “shoot at sight” orders to contain the violence and Chief Minister N Biren Singh has said the violence was a result of “misunderstanding” in the society and that his administration was taking all measures to bring the situation under control.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has held meetings with top functionaries of Manipur and central governments through video conference to review the situation besides talking to Singh and his counterparts in Nagaland (Neiphiu Rio), Mizoram (Zoramthanga) and Assam (Himanta Biswa Sarma).
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