Union Home Minister Amit Shah has cancelled his visit to poll-bound Karnataka in view of the violence between tribals and the majority Meitei community in Manipur.
Reports say, Shah has been closely monitoring the situation in the north-eastern state and will continue to hold meetings to ensure the restoration of peace in the violence-torn areas.
The Home Minister on Friday (May 5) was scheduled to attend a rally in Karatagi in Karnataka’s Koppal district and a public meeting in Kustagi. These events will now be attended by Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Mansukh Mandaviya. The health minister will be accompanied by BJP leaders Pratap Samha and Basangouda Patil Yatnal.
Watch | Why Manipur’s Kukis and Meiteis are at war, and how the violence is panning out
Shah on Thursday cancelled his poll campaign in Kalaburagi district to hold multiple meetings on the situation in Manipur.
The home minister was also slated to campaign for BJP candidates in Jewargi and Afzalpur.
Besides holding meetings via video conferencing with the Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and top Manipur and central government officials, Shah also spoke to chief ministers of neighbouring Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio, Mizoram’s Zoramthanga and Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Situation peaceful, for now
Even as the situation in the Imphal Valley remained comparatively peaceful on Friday, intermittent gunfights between militant groups and security forces were reported from the hill districts surrounding the valley.
While Article 355 has been imposed in Manipur, the Centre has deployed over 6,000 soldiers from the Army and the Assam Rifles in the state. More forces have been brought in by road from Nagaland and by air using C17 Globemaster and AN 32 transport aircraft of the IAF from Assam.
Explainer | Explained: What is Article 355 that has been imposed in Manipur
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.
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 Meitei’s 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.
Also read: Manipur: Shoot-at-sight orders issued, 55 army columns deployed
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.
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 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.
Also read: Uneasy calm in Manipur; situation under control, says Defence PRO
(With inputs from agencies)