Manipur remained in a state of tension on Tuesday (May 23) but overall exhibited a sense of calm following the previous day’s outbreak of violence. The northeastern state had experienced incidents of ethnic violence since May 3, resulting in the unfortunate loss of at least 70 lives.
Business establishments remained closed on Tuesday morning and people were asked by security personnel to remain indoors through the public address system in New Chekon area of Imphal East district, where a mob torched two houses after four armed people, including a former MLA, forced people to shut their shops on Monday.
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Locals, armed with licensed guns, were found guarding their localities against possible attacks by constructing makeshift “bunkers” in a few places including Pukhao and Leitanpokpi in Imphal East district and five such “bunkers” were destroyed by security forces in Sinam Khaithong village in Imphal West on Monday, police said.
Sit-in demonstrations, mostly by the womenfolk, were reported in the valley districts, with the agitators demanding that the Suspension of Operation (SoO) with Kuki militants be abrogated and action be taken against them. They also demanded that “illegal Myanmarese immigrants” be deported, poppy cultivation be stopped in the hill areas and also protested the hill MLAs demand for bifurcation of the state.
People living in areas adjoining the hills have complained of Kuki militants coming down to the valley and opening fire on civilians before fleeing, with at least three people injured in one such recent incident in Moidangpok village in Imphal West district.
Curfew relaxation period has been cut by two hours and the restriction is now from 5 am to 2 pm.
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Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Monday evening appealed to the people to stop torching houses of innocent people.
He said three people, including an ex-MLA, were arrested in the New Chekon incident. The mob had beaten up one of the armed men, while the other three had managed to flee from the spot.
No casualty was reported in the torching incident as the empty houses were used for providing rented accommodation to people.
“We will initiate legal action against those involved in illegal activities… We have also decided to acquire 20 more companies of security personnel from the central forces,” the CM said.
Around 10,000 Army and Assam Rifles jawans are currently deployed in the state. Security forces are conducting aerial surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles and Cheetah helicopters.
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The CM said action will also be taken against those involved in inciting hate and enmity on social media inside and outside the state.
Internet services remain suspended since violence started in order to stop rumours and hate messages from being spread. However, it is alleged that the warring Meitei and Kuki community people living outside the state are spreading hatred in their social media posts.
“We need to engage in talks by sitting together to bring in normalcy and restore peace,” the chief minister said.
Clashes broke out in Manipur after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The violence in Manipur was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
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Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s 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.
The ethnic clashes claimed over 70 lives and some 10,000 army and para-military personnel had to be deployed to restore normalcy in the northeastern state.
(With agency inputs)