Tensions continue to run high in Manipur following violent clashes that erupted on May 3 during an ongoing tribal protest against a court order on Scheduled Tribe status for Meteis. On May 6, the 4th day of the violence the overall situation remained critical even as security forces attempted to bring the violence under control.
The deteriorating law and order situation in Manipur has forced the Indian Army to deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Cheetah helicopters to ensure that insurgent groups staying in camps across Indo-Myanmar- Border cannot take advantage of the crisis situation which may be detrimental to ongoing massive efforts to restore normalcy in Manipur.
Reports from the ground suggest that life in Imphal Valley seemed to be returning to a wary normalcy on Saturday. Most shops and markets have reopened, and cars are once again plying on the roads, offering some hope amidst the ongoing tragedy.
Sources in the Indian Army on Saturday said that multiple rounds of Aerial Surveillance using Cheetah Helicopters have already been conducted by Army since morning in Manipur. The aerial surveillance mechanism was implemented by the Indian Army apart from the huge deployment of forces on the ground across the state where the violence has taken a severe toll since Wednesday.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju expressed his condolences and called the violence “very unfortunate,” adding that the government is taking necessary steps to address the situation. Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the situation in Manipur with Chief Minister N Biren Singh and top officials on Friday, and the Centre dispatched additional security forces and anti-riot vehicles to maintain peace in the violence-hit state, sources said.
The situation however, remains precarious as the number of deaths continues to rise with official and hospital sources informing that it the number dead persons has climbed beyond 55. However, according to The Borderlens‘ local correspondents who have been covering the turn of events since May 3 evening say based on unofficial sources, the figures could be much more.
As many as 23 dead have been reported from the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences at Lamphel in Imphal West district, while 16 bodies were kept in the morgue of the Churachandpur district hospital, and 15 bodies were in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal East district.
In the midst of the violence, Manipur’s underground groups have also joined in and are said to be targeting security forces in different parts. According to Assam Rifles sources, there were two separate encounters in Churachandpur district on Friday night, resulting in the deaths of five hill-based militants and injuries to two India Reserve Battalion jawans. In one incident, security forces engaged militants in Saiton, killing four of them. In a separate incident in Torbung, militants initiated the firefight, resulting in the death of one militant and injuries to two IRB jawans.
Defence sources state that the army had brought Churachandpur, Moreh, Kakching, and Kangpokpi districts under its control, with over 13,000 people rescued and shifted to safe shelters, including army camps. They further added that sporadic incidents of arson and blockades were reported in Imphal East and West districts, but they were dealt with through a firm and synergized response.
Although multiple sources reported several deaths and injuries resulting from fighting between communities in districts such as Imphal East and West, Churachandpur, and Bishnupur, the police are yet to confirm details.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) also suffered a loss when a CRPF CoBRA commando on leave was shot dead by armed assailants in his village in Churachandpur district on Friday. The CRPF has issued a notice to all its jawans from Manipur who are on leave to immediately report at their nearest security base with family members.
Newly appointed security advisor to Manipur government, Kuldeep Singh said that the state administration is readying forces for deployment at 23 locations, including various police stations, due to the ongoing violence. The areas deemed sensitive will have a presence of RAF, Assam Rifles, BSF, and IRB.
Sources in the Army while talking to The Borderlens on condition of anonymity said that the situation is improving but it is still tense. “Our priority was to control law and order. We are conducting flag marches and the situation is improving,” he said, adding that there are, however, fresh incidents of violence at different districts on Saturday.
On Friday, the Manipur DGP N Doungel on Friday told newsmen that instructions have been given by the government to take severe actions against those who have taken law and order into their hands and have carried out a spree of attacks on innocent people. He also confirmed that miscreants had looted arms and ammunition from 23 police stations and made an appeal for their return.
The present violence resulted following a peace solidarity rally on May 3, by different tribal groups of Manipur who were protesting against demands by Manipur’s majority Meitei community to be recognised under the government’s “Scheduled Tribe” category. The All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) had organized the rally against the move. Mobs in Imphal and in some hill districts have set on fire hundreds of houses belonging to different communities.