Sporadic violence reported in Manipur; 13,000 rescued as more forces arrive

Imphal: The Imphal Valley in Manipur which remained peaceful for most of Friday witnessed sporadic clashes later in the day as more security forces were rushed in from other states by road and air to calm down a state which had witnessed bloody ethnic rioting over the last 48 hours.

A Defence spokesperson said a total of 13,000 people were rescued and shifted to safe shelters, some in army camps as the army brought Churachandpur, Moreh, Kakching and Kangpokpi districts under its “firm control”.

Intermittent gunfights between militant groups and security forces were also reported in the morning hours from various hill districts surrounding the valley, but a wary peace seems to be reigning there since.

“In the past 12 hours, Imphal East and West districts witnessed sporadic incidents of arson and attempts by inimical elements to establish blockades. However, the situation was controlled by a firm and synergised response,” the Defence official said on Friday night.

Details of the incidents, however, were not available.

Multiple sources said the fighting between communities had left several scores of people dead and nearly a hundred injured. However, the police were unwilling to confirm this.

Altogether 36 bodies, stated to be victims of the clashes, were brought to the morgue of the Regional Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) morgue in Imphal West district, sources in the hospital said on Friday night.

The bodies were brought from districts such as Imphal East and West, Churachandpur and Bishenpur.

Many people with bullet injuries are also being treated at RIMS and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences.

The exchanges of fire between militant groups, who have involved themselves in the ethnic clashes in the state, and security forces were reported at Kangvai in Churachandpur district, western hill range of Phougakchao in adjoining Bishnupur district and Dolaithabi and Pukhao in Imphal East district, a senior police officer said.

However, it was not immediately known whether there was any casualty on either side.

“Prompt response by Security Forces led to rescuing of civilians of all communities from various minority pockets of areas affected by violence. As a result, Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Moreh and Kakching are now under firm control with no major violence reported since yesterday night,” the PRO said.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers from the Army and the Assam Rifles have been deployed in the state which was rocked by clashes since Wednesday between the Meitei community, which mainly live in Imphal Valley, and Naga and Kuki tribals who are inhabitants of the hill districts.

“Total of approximately 13,000 civilians have been rescued and are currently staying in various ad-hoc boarding facilities specifically created for the purpose within Company Operating Bases & Military Garrisons,” the defence official said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the situation in Manipur with Chief Minister N Biren Singh and top officials, even as the Centre dispatched additional security forces and anti-riot vehicles to maintain peace there.

Around 1,000 more central paramilitary personnel with anti-riot vehicles reached Manipur on Friday, sources said.

Trains to Manipur have been cancelled with immediate effect on Friday due to the prevailing in the state, a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) spokesperson said.

The Defence PRO, in a statement, earlier said, “The Indian Air Force (IAF) undertook continuous sorties from two airfields in Assam employing C17 Globemaster and AN 32 aircraft.” “Induction commenced on the night of May 4 and additional columns commenced domination with effect from the wee hours of May 5. Domination & evacuation of civilians of all communities from affected areas continued throughout the night. Flag march in Churachandpur and other sensitive areas are underway,” it added.

Violence first erupted in Torbung area in Churachandpur district during the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organised by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) on Wednesday to protest the demand of Meiteis for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The march was organised by tribals — including Nagas and Kukis — 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, 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, police said.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of the population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals, who include Nagas and Kukis, account for another 40 per cent of the population and live mostly in the hill districts which surround the Valley.

Two shopping malls in New Checkon and Chingmeirong areas of Imphal city were vandalised and torched by an angry mob on Thursday evening.

People were not seen gathering in large numbers or venturing out of their houses in Imphal and other areas on Thursday night as patrolling was intensified on the streets, he said.

A tribal MLA, Vunzagin Valte, of Thanlon constituency was critically injured and was undergoing treatment at a hospital after he was assaulted by a mob on Thursday, the officer said.

The violence between the majority Meiteis and tribals over the demand of the former for ST status has displaced over 13,000 people from both communities.

People in various parts of the country protested against the violence in Manipur.

The Manipur government has given “shoot at sight” orders to contain the violence and Chief Minister N Biren Singh has said the violence was a result of “misunderstanding” in the society and that his administration was taking all measures to bring the situation under control.