No let-up in mayhem and violence in Manipur even as government claims to be in control

Despite claims by the Manipur government that they are working to bring peace in the state, reports of fresh violence continued to surface from different parts on Thursday...

Despite claims by the Manipur government that they are working to bring peace in the state, reports of fresh violence continued to surface from different parts on Thursday since the break of dawn.

In an effort to contain the escalating violence between tribals and the majority Meitei community in Manipur, the government has issued a “shoot-at-sight” order this evening. In the notification issued by the Governor of Manipur, the order would come into effect where after all forms of persuasion, warning and reasonable force has been exhausted and the situation is beyond control.

Manipur Violence May 2023

Official sources in Delhi said that Article 355 of the Constituion has been imposed in Manipur which means that the Central government will now be responsible for all security related measures. Article 355 is an emergency provision in Part XVIII of the Constitution (Articles 350-360) that empowers the Central government to safeguard states against external aggression and internal disturbance.

To prevent disruptions to peace and public order, the Manipur government has also announced the suspension of home Wi-Fi and broadband services for the next five days. The continuing violence has resulted in the displacement of over 9,000 people from their villages besides death of 8 persons.

The shoot-at-sight orders also comes following a brutal assault on Vungzagin Valte, a former minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Thanlon Assembly Constituency in Churachandpur near Nagampal. Valte was assaulted by a mob when he was on his way back after a meeting with Chief Minister Biren Singh. He has been admitted in a critical condition to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences Imphal.

In yet another incident near at the same place, Ngursanglur Sanate a JD(U) MA from Tapaimukh constituency was stopped by a mob and taken to the Nityananda Temple Nagamapal. He too was returning after a meeting with Chief Minister Biren Singh.

Although the district administration has not yet confirmed these incidents, it has already caused a widespread outrage leading to further deterioration of law-and-order situation in the state.

The situation in Manipur remains tense, with reports of increasing violence, burning of places of religious worship and people’s houses and protests being reported from several parts of the state over a span of 24 hours. Disturbing videos of people being taken to isolated locations and beaten mercilessly were circulating on the Internet. This, inspite of the fact that a five-day ban on internet services is in place.

During the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the Manipur Chief Minister, Singh had a telephonic discussion over the fast-changing political situation in Manipur.

Later in a video address to the media, Chief Minister Singh stated that the ongoing violence in the state is the result of a prevailing misunderstanding between two sections of society. He further claimed that the government is taking all necessary steps to control the situation.

However, over the past 24 hours, incidents of clashes and vandalism have been reported from several places in the state with attacks by violent mobs on innocent people including women and students have continued, leading to further complexities.

Notably, the Manipur government ordered the suspension of mobile internet services for five more days in the wake of the spread of violence on Wednesday night.

According to a statement issued by Director General of Police (DGP) in Manipur, P Doungel, “The situation in the hill districts of Bishnupur and Churachandpur remains tense and volatile. Some individuals with malicious intentions are using social media platforms to circulate hate speech and videos that can further incite the public. The competent authorities are keeping a close eye on these activities to prevent any further escalation of violence.”

The Indian Army has been trying its best to contain the situation although it has also come under attack in parts of Imphal district. The army and paramilitary forces have stated that they are providing assistance to a significant number of people in ad-hoc lodging places across Manipur. The figures provided by the Indian Army indicate that approximately 6,000 people are being assisted in Churachandpur, 2,000 in Imphal, and 2,000 in Moreh.

To address the situation, the Home Ministry has deployed the Rapid Action Force (RAF), which specializes in handling riots in any given situation. This intervention is a direct response to the ongoing violence, and the government is taking steps to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. According to a PTI report, ministry’s officials said that Shah was briefed about the ground situation and the steps taken to restore peace. Apart from the Army and Assam Rifles, sufficient number of paramilitary forces were also available in Manipur for deployment in violence-hit areas.

Visuals from the attack on churches. Credit: Special Arrangement

Manipur police have claimed that some Myanmarese nationals who have illegally entered the state were involved in the recent arson attacks. However, there has been no proof of such involvement which the police could provide.

Meanwhile, leaders from across the region and church leaders have expressed grave concern on the largescale attacks on churches in and around Imphal and a few other places. As many as 17 churches belonging to various denominations have been destroyed either by setting the premises on fire or vandalising the property. Such attacks still continued until filling of this report.

Visuals from the attack on churches. Credit: Special Arrangement

Chief Minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga had a telephonic conversation with his Manipur counterpart, N Biren Singh on Thursday, and wrote a letter urging for the restoration of peace. In addition to speaking with Singh, Zoramthanga also contacted a senior officer in the Union Home Ministry, who assured him of the deployment of additional Central Armed Police forces in Manipur.

Zoramthanga has instructed Mizoram’s Home Minister, Lalchamliana, and Home Commissioner and Secretary, H Lalengmawia, to convene a meeting to discuss steps for the safety of the Zo Hnathlak (Kukis) community in the neighboring state. The Chief Minister shared this information on his official Instagram account.

On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed his concerns over the deteriorating law and order situation in Manipur, following violent protests over the inclusion of the state’s majority Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. In a tweet, Gandhi called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate steps to restore peace and normalcy in the state. He urged the people of Manipur to remain calm in the face of the ongoing crisis.

Olympic medal-winning boxer and Rajya Sabha MP Mary Kom appealed for calm amid widespread violence in her home state, on Thursday. Speaking to news agency ANI, Mary Kom expressed her unhappiness with the situation in Manipur, stating that she could not even imagine this level of violence before. She further said, “The situation in Manipur makes me unhappy… earlier I could not even imagine this much violence. Since last night it has become more frightening.” Mary Kom appealed to the state and centre to work together, saying, “I ask the state and central governments to take steps and (to) maintain peace and security… this is my request.”

In a letter addressed to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday, Mizoram, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, K. Vanlalvena, expressed deep concern over the outbreak of violence and conflict in Manipur. The ongoing unrest in Manipur has also garnered the attention of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of India, Shillong. In a press release by Rev Dr K Lalrinkima, Senior Administrative Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of India Shillong, the Assembly expressed deep concern for the victims and those affected by the violence, on Thursday.

“We are deeply concerned for the victims of the unrest. It is heart breaking to know the places of worship being attacked and burnt down and houses being burnt to ashes so forcing many people to leave their homes”, the letter read. In a statement, the Assembly extended heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and expressed solidarity with them in prayer. The Assembly urged all parties involved in the unrest to maintain peace and harmony and avoid actions that could further escalate the situation. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has also tweeted about the incident, announcing a meeting to discuss the situation in Manipur and check on the safety of students.

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