Fresh violence in Manipur; 2 killed, tear gas used to disperse irate mob in Imphal
Manipur witnessed fresh protests on Thursday (June 29) night as a crowd gathered in Imphal, and tried to take out the dead body of a person, killed in a gunfight earlier in the day, in a procession to the chief minister’s residence. Security personnel deployed at the state capital had to lob tear gases to disperse the crowd.
According to reports, the crowd, mostly constituting women, had gathered to pay respects to a former merchant navy officer who was killed in a gunfight in Kangpokpi district earlier in the day. The protesters had placed the body of the deceased in a coffin and brought it to Imphal’s Khwairamband Bazaar.
The protesters who had come out on the streets defying curfew orders demanded justice for the deceased and even threatened the police to arrest them.
Reports said they burned tyres in the middle of the road to prevent police from arresting them and threatened to carry the body in a procession to Chief Minister Biren N Singh’s house.
As police stopped them from marching to Singh’s residence, the processionists turned violent, they said, adding police used tear gas shells and resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the mob.
The body was later taken to the morgue at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences.
Earlier in the day, two people, suspected to be rioters, were killed and at least five others injured in an exchange of fire with security personnel in Haraothel village in Kangpokpi district.
Local army units said there could be other bodies on the ground as the intermittent firing had made it difficult for them to know the exact number of casualties.
They said armed rioters opened unprovoked firing at Haraothel village. The army said security forces personnel “responded in a calibrated manner” to tackle the situation.
Officials said extra policemen were deployed in Imphal as a precautionary measure.
Earlier in the day, Assam Rifles columns were deployed at National Sports University & K Munlai village after intermittent gunfire from automatic weapons was heard from multiple directions towards Haraothel village. An official said unidentified gunmen fired without provocation in the wee hours of Thursday and again in the evening.
Giving details of the morning firing, the official Twitter handle of the army, operating in the region, stated armed rioters opened unprovoked firing at 5.30 am. “Own troops deployed in the area immediately mobilised to prevent escalation of situation. While en route to the site, own columns drew effective fire from armed rioters,” the official “Spear Corps” handle of the army said.
It said the troops “responded in a calibrated manner to prevent any collateral damage. Swift action by troops resulted in cessation of firing.
“Additional columns moved to the area. Unconfirmed reports indicate some casualties. Build-up of large crowds in the area also reported. Situation being closely monitored and further details will follow,” it said.
In another tweet in the evening, the Spear Corps of the army said, “Build-up of mob in the area to interfere with operations by security forces effectively controlled.” “At approx 4 PM, troops deployed in the area heard firing from east of village K Munlai. Further, at approx 5.15 PM, exchange of fire reported from direction of village Bethel, south of National Sports University. Own columns are dominating the area to de-escalate the situation,” it added.
The area is located around 20 km from capital city of Imphal.
More than 100 people have lost their lives in the ethnic violence between Meitei and Kuki communities in the northeastern state so far. Clashes first broke out on May 3 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipurs population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals – Nagas and Kukis – constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
(With inputs from agencies)