Two persons were killed and several others injured amid heavy firing between armed miscreants and security forces near a Kuki-Zo settlement at Pallel in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district on Friday.
Unidentified armed miscreants fired at the security personnel at the gates of sector headquarters of Assam Rifles (AR) in Pallel as a crowd of women blocked the movement of the Central security forces, a defence source said.
More than 40 women were injured during mob control exercise. At least eight armed miscreants and three security force personnel sustained bullet injuries. Intermittent firing continued in the area with crowd blocking security forces at multiple locations at Pallel, Kakching and Imphal West.
Hundreds of Kuki-Zo people took refuge in the camps of Border Security Force (BSF) and AR nearby. Several houses and commercial establishments including one belonging to a BJP leader were burnt down. The Pallel township, with a mixed population of Kuki-Zo, Nagas and Meiteis, had remained unaffected since the May 3 ethnic violence between the tribal Kuki-Zo and the Meitei community erupted in the State. More than 160 people have been killed in the violence so far.
The Manipur police posted on X, “There are posts on social media regarding exchange of fire between Kuki militants and Meitei village volunteers, which is not correct. It is clarified that the incident was related to firing between security forces and armed miscreants at Pallel.”
One of the deceased was identified as Jiten (47) from Kakching.
“Eight armed miscreants suffered bullet injuries, one civilian who was part of the mob was killed,” said Luikham Lanmiyo, Superintendent of Police, Tengnoupal. Though locals claimed that a Kuki-Zo village guard Paokholen Haokip (32), a resident of Molnoi village, was killed in the attack, Mr. Lanmiyo said they were yet to confirm the death. Another “miscreant” who could not be identified was also killed on Friday, a police source said.
There were two incidents reported near the Pallel township which is located on the boundary of Kakching and Tengnoupal districts. The source said that armed miscreants fired at a particular community in the Molnoi area which was responded by security forces and subsequently a crowd gathered. Women groups gheraoed the sector headquarters of Assam Rifles. “As the women protesters blocked the movement of security forces outside AR headquarters, some armed miscreants fired at the forces. Some protesters are said to have been injured in the retaliatory fire by the Central security forces,” said the source.
Role of outsiders?
“This area reported no violence so far. Those who attacked our village were outsiders. We know our neighbours, none of them were involved in the attack. The men have stayed back in the villages while women, children and older people are taking refuge in district headquarters in Tengnoupal,” a villager from Monloi said on condition of anonymity.
She said the community members asked them to vacate the houses at 5.30 a.m. on Friday after the movement of outsiders was noticed in the area.
Police said the armed miscreants attempted to resort to arson and violence in Molnoi village, adding that crowds of thousands of people attempted to move towards Pallel. “Being blocked by the security forces, some armed miscreants from within the mob fired at the security forces, resulting in gun shot wounds to an Army officer who was evacuated by helicopter to the military hospital,” the police said in a statement. They added that “minimum force” was used in self defence to control the unruly mob which led to “injuries to few persons who were part of the mob out of which two reportedly died.”
An 85-year old Kuki woman was rescued by the police in Pallel and handed over to district authorities in Tengnoupal.
The Manipur government warned public servants from skipping office in the wake of a “Statewide curfew” called by a civil society group on September 8-9. Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi appealed to the general public, including public functionaries, to continue performing normal activities and functions during the Statewide curfew announced by the Thoubal and Kakching District Apunba Lup (TAKDAL). Another order said that “no casual leave or any other leave shall be granted to any [government] employee and no salary will be admissible in the absence of employees on the said day.”
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an influential Meitei group, claimed that over 80 people, mostly unarmed women and teenagers were injured and accused the Assam Rifles of protecting the Kuki groups and shooting indiscriminately at women and children.
It said that Friday’s incident was an attempt by the Kuki groups to draw the attention of the visiting world leaders during the ongoing G-20 summit in Delhi.
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) said that as “India prepares to host the annual G-20 summit in the capital, Meitei radicals have decided to steal the national headlines by renewing their attack on Kuki-Zo tribals in Manipur”, adding that it does not want to embarrass the government in front of leaders of the world’s major economies with news of ethnic killings.