Five killed in fresh violence in Manipur

Three Meitei men hacked to death; two Kuki village guards killed in gunfire; BJP MLA questions role of security forces; video shows Manipur police personnel accusing Assam Rifles of colluding with miscreants

August 05, 2023 10:56 am | Updated 11:52 pm IST - New Delhi

Tyres and articles being burnt by protestors to block a road during a protest at Kwakta in Manipur’s Bishnupur district on August 5, 2023.

Tyres and articles being burnt by protestors to block a road during a protest at Kwakta in Manipur’s Bishnupur district on August 5, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

At least five people were killed and several injured in a fresh wave of violence in Manipur on Friday. The neighbouring districts of Bishnupur and Churachandpur saw heavy exchanges of fire and incidents of arson through the day, despite the presence of a large number of central security forces, including the army.

The dead included three Meitei men hacked to death by armed miscreants while asleep in their homes, as well as two Kuki village guards killed in gunfire between the tribal-dominated hills and the Meitei-dominated valley areas.

Questioning Central forces’ role

A video of an altercation between the Manipur police and the Assam Rifles appeared on social media. The incident reportedly took place on the Kwakta-Gothol road in Bishnupur, when armoured vehicles of the Assam Rifles blocked the road to curtail the movement of Manipur police to the buffer zone created between the hill district of Churachandpur and the valley district of Bishnupur. The army and other Central forces have been heavily deployed in this buffer zone, which has seen frequent clashes.

In the video, a Manipur police personnel can be seen accusing the Assam Rifles of colluding with armed miscreants.

BJP legislator Rajkumar Imo Singh, the son-in-law of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, also questioned the role of central security forces. “How on earth did the militants come to the valley locality and kill innocent people who were sleeping? What is the role of the security forces? Urge MHA to remove/replace the Units on duty and take action against the officers on duty,” he posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

This buffer zone area was the planned location for the mass burial of 35 members of the Kuki-Zo community, who were killed since ethnic violence erupted in the State on May 3. The burial was called off following the Union Home Ministry’s intervention and a High Court order.

Hacked to death

The first violent incident of the day was reported in around 3:35 a.m. from Kwakta village in Bishnupur, when three Meitei men, including a father-son duo, were hacked to death by unidentified armed miscreants. One of them also had a bullet injury.

The men had moved into a nearby relief camp when the violence erupted, but had then returned to the village to protect their property. They were asleep at their home when a group of seven to ten armed men attacked them with knives and swords, Bishnupur Deputy Commissioner Lourembam Bikram told The Hindu. “Their bodies were mutilated. We have sent them for postmortem to Imphal. After the killings, heavy firing is on,” Mr. Bikram said. The dead were identified as Y. Pishak, 67, his son Y. Pratap, 39, and another relative Y. Jiten, 46.

Also Read | Manipur HC directs status quo be maintained at mass burial site

Heavy exchanges of fire

In another incident, three people, including a policeman, were injured following a heavy exchange of fire between State forces and armed miscreants near Kwakta. A police commando identified as P.A. Singh was injured.

Hours later, two Kuki village guards were killed and 13 others were injured in a heavy exchange of fire between the tribal-dominated hills and the Meitei-dominated valley areas. The dead were identified as Johny, 30, and Jangkhomang, 34. Two villages in Churachandpur district, Phoujang and Songdo, also saw heavy firing.

In Kwakta, a church, and a house belonging to a Kuki were razed to the ground. A local resident said that since the ethnic violence began, the house and the church had been secured by security forces.

In another incident, several abandoned houses belonging to the Kuki community at Lamphel in Imphal West were burnt down by miscreants.

KIA member apprehended

The Army said on Saturday that it apprehended a member of an underground insurgent group — the Kuki Independent Army (KIA) — after a gunfight at Mongcham. KIA was formed in 2019 and unlike 25 other Kuki insurgent groups, it is not in a Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the government.

The Army’s Spear Corps post on X, formerly Twitter, said that multiple operations were launched in the aftermath of the incident at Kwakta in Bishnupur. “During one such search operation, #IndianArmy column drew effective fire from armed insurgents from general area Mongcham at approximately 5.30 p.m. Own troops retaliated in a calibrated manner & in the ensuing firefight, one armed insurgent of KIA (Non SoO Group) sustained gunshot wound and has been apprehended while others managed to escape. One selfloading rifle, ammunition and war-like stores recovered,” the Army posted.

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