An uneasy calm prevailed in Manipur on Friday morning (May 5) as no fresh violence was reported overnight between communities amid the heavy presence of security forces, police said.
However, gunfights were reported between security forces and hill-based militants in various parts of the state, they said.
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The exchanges of fire were reported at Kangvai in Churachandpur district, the western hill range of Phougakchao in the adjoining Bishnupur district, and Dolaithabi and Pukhao in Imphal East district, a senior police officer said.
However, it was not immediately known whether there have been any casualties on either side.
Situation under control: Defence PRO
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.”
#WATCH | Manipur: An Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft, carrying Central forces, landed in Imphal earlier this evening. pic.twitter.com/RTwy2oK0hj
— ANI (@ANI) May 4, 2023
“Induction commenced on the night of May 4 and additional columns commenced domination with effect from the wee hours of May 5. Domination and evacuation of civilians of all communities from the affected areas continued throughout the night. Flag march in Churachandpur and other sensitive areas underway,” it added.
Fifty-five columns of Army and Assam Rifles were deployed, and more troops were brought in from Nagaland by road while the IAF flew in reinforcements from Tezpur and Guwahati in Assam, a defence official said.
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Two shopping malls in New Checkon and Chingmeirong areas of Imphal city were vandalised and torched by an angry mob on Thursday evening (May 4). People were not seen gathering in large numbers or venturing out of their houses in Imphal and other areas on Thursday night (May 4) as patrolling was intensified on the streets, he said.
Tribal MLA critically injured
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 (May 4), 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 the majority Meiteis and the tribals over the demand of the former for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status has displaced over 9,000 people from both communities.
Many affected people are taking shelter in camps of security forces.
Tribals protest against Meitei demand for ST status
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 (May 3) to protest the demand of Meiteis, who account for 53 per cent of the state’s population, for ST status.
The march was organised by tribals, who account for about 40 per cent of the state’s population, 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 Meitei community.
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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.
Shoot-at-sight orders to contain violence
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 the central government 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).
(With agency inputs)