The Manipur Government insisted in the Supreme Court on July 3 that the situation in the State is “improving, though slowly” a day after fresh violence erupted with at least four people being killed.
A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud ordered the State Government to file an updated status report detailing the actual situation on the ground before July 10, the next day of hearing.
“We want to know about the rehabilitation efforts, the recovery of arms and the law and order situation on the ground. Give us a detailed report,” Chief Justice Chandrachud addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Manipur Government.
The court’s order came after senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for petitioner Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi (MTFD), said the situation was “extreme”. He said a person was reported to have been “beheaded” in the latest bout of violence. Mr. Mehta in turn urged the petitioner side not to bring “communal” colour into the case. “The situation is improving, though slowly. The problem is being tackled,” he persisted.
Though claiming an "improvement" in the situation, the government revealed a sizeable deployment of defence and security forces in the State. “The deployment, apart from the civil police, include reserve battalions, Manipur Rifles, commandos, 114 companies of CAPF and 184 columns of the Army… There are 355 relief camps. The curfew has been reduced to five hours… There is an improvement,” the Solicitor General said.
The deployment statistics show that the size of the security forces had burgeoned since May 8, when the Solicitor General had told the Supreme Court that 52 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and 105 columns of the Army/Assam Rifles were deployed in the State. The violence between the Meitei-Kuki communities began in early May.
Past hearings in May and June had also seen the State government give oral assurances to the top court about efforts to control the violence.
In fact, in a hearing on May 17, the Solicitor General had said the situation in the State had “improved a lot”. He had said the State was “peaceful and quiet”. The State had also maintained, in earlier court hearings, that its first priority was to “restore calm” and “security forces were doing their best”.
On Monday, Mr. Gonsalves countered that the violence and “killings” had continued despite the “solemn assurances” given by the government in the Supreme Court to protect the people. “There were 10 or 20 deaths when the court took up the case… it is 110 today… The loss of lives is hugely accelerating,” he submitted. He said there were two militant groups who have publicly declared their intent of violence against the Kukis. “Not a single person has been arrested,” Mr. Gonsalves submitted.
The court posted the case for hearing on Monday. The MTFD application has sought “immediate directions to the Army to take full control of the law and order and public order situation in the districts of Churachanpur, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Imphal East, Imphal West and villages in Manipur to ensure with immediate effect that the killing of Kukis comes to an end”.
The immediate trigger for the violence has been a March 27 order by the Manipur High Court’s Single Judge Bench of Acting Chief Justice MV Muralidharan, directing the State government to “consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, expeditiously”. Eom