Personnel of the Army and the paramilitary Assam Rifles were deployed in violence-hit districts of Manipur and more than 7,500 affected people were evacuated to safer places, officials said on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
The Centre also airlifted five companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) for deployment in the trouble-torn areas of the State while 15 other general duty companies have been asked to be on standby.
The ethnic violence that erupted on May 3 following a “tribal solidarity march” abated to a large extent but there were reports of houses, business establishments and places of worship set on fire in the sensitive areas on Thursday.
Shah speaks to Biren
Home Minister Amit Shah called up Manipur Chief Minister, Nongthombam Biren Singh, who briefed him about the situation on the ground and the steps undertaken to restore peace.
“Wednesday’s incidents took place due to a misunderstanding between the communities. The government will settle the genuine demands and grievances after talking with all the communities and leaders,” Mr Singh said in a video message, appealing for peace and cooperation from the people.
“The Army and Assam Rifles were requisitioned on the night of May 3 and 4 for the areas of Churanchandpur, Imphal and Kangpokpi districts. The violence was arrested by (Thursday) morning by columns of the armed forces along with the State police,” a defence spokesperson said.
“More than 7,500 people have been provided shelter in defence set-ups and State government premises at various places. Flag marches are being conducted to keep the situation under control and shifting of the villagers to safer areas away from locations of violence is under progress,” he added.
The situation in Manipur turned volatile after the solidarity march called by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) to oppose the demand by a section of the non-tribal Meitei people to be granted Scheduled Tribe status.
Clashes between different communities, primarily the Meitei and members of the Kuki-Zomi tribal group, broke out in different places, forcing the authorities to impose a night curfew in the affected districts and suspend mobile internet services for five days.
Police said tension prevailed in Churachandpur, Chandel, Kangpokpi, and Tengnoupal districts where Kuki-Zomi people have been protesting an eviction drive in the name of an anti-drug campaign by the State’s BJP-led government. The Kuki-Zomi people are accused of having largely entered India illegally from Myanmar and occupied State-owned forestlands to cultivate poppies.
Meitei organisations say the demand for ST status is justified for their survival and protection from the influx of outsiders, specifically from Myanmar. They say the ST tag would help them acquire land in the hills like the tribal people, who have no restrictions in buying land in the “unreserved” Imphal Valley.
Meanwhile, ace boxer and former Rajya Sabha member, M.C. Mary Kom has sought the help of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to douse the flame in Manipur. “My State Manipur is burning, kindly help,” she tweeted.
High Court notice
The Manipur High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the Hill Areas Committee (Assembly body) chairman and the ATSUM president to appear before it for instigating people against and criticising a judgement. The court also asked the media, organisations, civil society groups and the general people not to carry out activities that may lower the court’s dignity.
In an order on April 19, the High Court directed the Manipur government to submit to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry by May 29 a recommendation for the inclusion of the Meitei or Meetei people in the ST list.
The Hill Areas Committee chairman, Dinganglung Gangmei had reportedly circulated a statement against the court’s order and resented that the committee, a constitutional body, was neither made a party to the case nor consulted.