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Army Deployment Saves Lives in Manipur as 7,500 Civilians Evacuated From Violence-Stricken Areas

May 4, 2023

The Army and Assam Rifles were deployed to control the situation in Manipur where violence broke out during a tribal agitation, a defence spokesperson said on Thursday.

So far, 7,500 people were rescued by the forces from the violence-hit areas, and given shelter, he said, adding that more people are being shifted to safer places.

The Army and Assam Rifles were requisitioned last night, and along with the state police, the forces arrested the violence by the morning, the spokesperson said.

“Flag marches are being conducted to keep the situation under control,” he said.

A ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) in the ten hill districts of the state on Wednesday to protest the demand of non-tribal Meiteis, who account for 53 per cent of the state’s population, for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The march was organised after the Manipur High Court asked the state government last month to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status by the Metei community.

During the march in Torbung area of Churachandpur district, an armed mob allegedly attacked people of the Meitei community, leading to retaliatory attacks in the valley districts, which escalated the violence throughout the state, according to police.

Several shops and houses were vandalised, and gutted in arson that lasted for more than three hours in Torbung, they said.

Urging people to maintain peace, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, “Precious lives have been lost, besides damage of properties, which is very unfortunate.”

However, the details of the deaths were not immediately available. Singh said the violence was the result of “misunderstanding” in the society.

“The state government is taking all steps to maintain the law and order situation and additional para-military forces have been requisitioned to protect the lives and properties of the people,” he said.

“Central and state forces have been directed to take strong action against individuals and groups who are indulging in violence,” he said.

The Chief Minister of neighbouring Mizoram, Zoramthanga, wrote to Singh, expressing concern over the violence. “As the Chief Minister of Mizoram, a lifelong neighbour that has much in common with Manipur in terms of history and culture, I am deeply pained by the violence that has flared up in parts of your State and the underlying tension between the Meitei community and the tribals there,” he wrote in the letter.

Singh said he spoke to Zoramthanga on the phone and apprised him of the present situation.

Curfew has been imposed in non-tribal dominated Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, Jiribam and Bishnupur districts, and tribal-dominated Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts.

Mobile internet services were suspended across the state. In the Imphal valley, houses of Kuki tribals were ransacked in several areas, forcing them to flee, police said.

Over 500 residents of the Kuki-dominated Langol area in Imphal West fled their homes, and are currently staying at the CRPF camp at Lamphelpat, police said.

Some places of worship were also set on fire in the Imphal valley last night, they said.

Meanwhile, around 1,000 Meiteis of the tribal-dominated Churachandpur district fled to various areas of Bishnupur district, including Kwakta and Moirang, they said.

Over twenty houses were also burnt in Motbung area of Kangpokpi district, police said.

Violence was also reported from near the Myanmar border in Tengnoupal district.

Lawmakers of the valley have earlier openly endorsed the demand by some Meitei organisation for ST status, alarming communities who figure in the Scheduled Tribe list.

The Meiteis inhabit the valley, which accounts for about a tenth of the former princely state’s land area. They claim they are facing problems in view of “large scale illegal immigration by Myanmarese and Bangladeshis”.

The hill districts which account for much of the state’s land are inhabited mostly by tribals — including the Nagas and Kukis who are mainly Christians — and are protected from encroachment by various laws.

Army Deployment Saves Lives in Manipur as 7,500 Civilians Evacuated From Violence-Stricken Areas
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