Press Trust of india

Imphal Valley peaceful but tense; more forces deployed in Manipur

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Imphal: The Imphal Valley in Manipur remained peaceful but tense on Friday, as more forces were brought in from neighbouring states by road and air to bolster efforts to keep the peace in the state which had witnessed bloody rioting over the last 48 hours.

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.

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.

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.

At least five Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank officers and seven senior superintendents of police (SSP) and SP rank officers of the CRPF have been tasked to coordinate the deployment of various security forces in violence-hit Manipur, official sources said in New Delhi.

The Centre has rushed in about 20 fresh companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), including the CRPF and the BSF, in the wake of the spiralling violence between tribals and the majority Meitei community leading to the displacement of more than 9,000 people from their villages.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah is closely monitoring the situation in Manipur and is in constant touch with top functionaries of the state and central governments, sources said on Friday.

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.

Officials said the Army’s Sikh regiment is currently carrying out rescue operations in Langol in Imphal West district, shifting over 500 people to safe shelters in the Leimakhong army camp.

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, 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 9,000 people from both communities. Many affected people are taking shelter in camps of security forces.

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.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has held meetings with top functionaries of Manipur and central governments through video conference to review the situation besides talking to Singh and his counterparts in Nagaland (Neiphiu Rio), Mizoram (Zoramthanga) and Assam (Himanta Biswa Sarma).

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