In a disturbing turn of events, Manipur has once again been engulfed in violence just three weeks after the initial outbreak. The turmoil stems from protests against the grant of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meitei community. The situation escalated rapidly as soon as the curfew was relaxed, with Tronglaobi village in Bishnupur district becoming the epicenter of violence.
The situation in Manipur remains tense as authorities work to restore calm and address the underlying concerns of the different communities involved.
Suspected Kuki militants targeted three Meitei houses on Tuesday, igniting tensions further. In retaliation, members of the Meitei community set fire to four houses belonging to the other community. Subsequently, armed men attacked several villages in Moirang, located in Vishnupur district. Amidst the chaos, individuals from a relief camp in Moirang ventured out to investigate. Tragically, a young man was struck by a bullet, which pierced through his chest, causing fatal injuries.
The Assam Rifles swiftly responded to the incident, managing to quell the escalating violence by dispersing the agitated Meitei youths. The soldiers also dismantled numerous Kuki bunkers in the area. In response to the situation, a curfew has been imposed in the district.
In the aftermath of the violence, the relaxation of curfew measures in Bishnupur, Imphal West, and Imphal East districts has been withdrawn. Furthermore, Meitei women expressed their anger by ransacking the residence of Minister Govindas Konthoujam.
The incident triggered public demonstrations, prompting security forces to resort to firing in order to disperse the crowd. Similar incidents of violence were reported in other districts as well.
During a search operation conducted by the army at Kangchup Chingkhong junction in Senapati district, significant weapons and ammunition were seized. The recovered items included five shotguns, two single bore guns, one double bore gun, a folding butt-gun, 280 live cartridges of 12 bore, 81 rounds of 12 bore guns, six packets of ammunition for air guns, and five country bombs. Subsequently, three individuals were apprehended in connection with these weapons.
The violent situation in Manipur has raised concerns in neighboring states within the northeastern region. More than ten thousand people have sought refuge in Mizoram and Assam. Mizoram's Chief Minister, Zoramthanga, emphasized the gravity of Manipur's predicament, urging Chief Minister Biren Singh to adopt a strict approach in dealing with the rioters. Nagaland has also heightened border security due to the unrest in Manipur.
The Kuki community has called for a political dialogue between the central and state governments, involving the Kuki National Organization (KNO) and the United People's Front (UPF), to find a solution to the ongoing issues. They emphasize the need for resolving their problems before focusing on peace restoration. Conversely, the Meitei community asserts that the Kukis are infiltrators from Myanmar and should be expelled, while asserting their own indigenous status in Manipur.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) has taken the initiative to engage in talks with various groups and stakeholders, advocating for a separate state. The forum aims to garner support from like-minded individuals and organizations to amplify the demand for an independent administration.
The dire circumstances endured by the indigenous people for the past three weeks have prompted this movement. The prevailing uncertainty has created a fear among the affected population, deterring them from returning to their homes.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, Mangcha Thangzom, the convenor of ITLF, expressed the urgent need for action, stating, "We have submitted several memorandums to the government and are seeking support from individuals who share our vision. It is crucial that the demand for a separate administration gains momentum. Our people have been enduring miserable conditions, and their safety and well-being are at stake." Meanwhile people stranded in the relief camps are facing shortage of water, food and medicine supplies.
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