Despite the official claim of “improved“ law and order situation in Manipur, the Chief Minister N. Biren told reporters that he had demanded 20 more companies of the Central security forces to cope with the increasing incidents of violence. Mr. Biren said these additional forces are for deployment in adjoining areas of the hill and valley districts.
On the other hand, All Manipur Working Journalists Union, Hill Journalists Union and Editor’s Guild Manipur have set a deadline of 48 hours which ends on Wednesday to suspend the personnel of Jat Regiment who allegedly beat up some reporters who rushed to New Checkon area to cover the incident of threatening women vendors and shop keepers at gun point on Monday. The gun men were led by one ex-MLA. In retaliation, some unidentified persons burned down four houses. Police said the former MLA and two gunmen had been arrested.
Mr. Biren who also holds Home portfolio said: “The incident is very unfortunate. The security advisor, Kuldiep Singh was instructed to ensure that it does not repeat.” Mr. Biren also said that there was a mischievous report that two persons were killed in the incident. There is no basis and people are requested to verify such reports.
Meanwhile, 171 heavy vehicles left Jiribam district on Tuesday morning for Imphal under heavy security. Thirty three tankers of petrol, 31 tankers of diesel and 95 trucks carrying essential commodities are in the caravan. These are expected to reach Imphal on March 24. This is the second arrival of various commodities since the May 3 incident. In the mean time, the prices of all essential commodities are beyond the reach of the common people. Petrol and diesel are strictly rationed. However, reports said black marketers are selling at high prices at road sides.
On Tuesday, curfew was relaxed from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. in most of the districts. However, there was no relaxation of curfew in the adjoining areas New Checkon where the burning incident took place.
Business establishments remained closed on May 23 morning and people were asked by the 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 May 22.
Editorial | Ethnic quagmire: On the Manipur violence
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.
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.
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.
Meiteis account for about 53% of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute another 40% 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 inputs from PTI)