Amid the recent Kuki-Meitei violence ongoing in the state of Manipur, Chief Minister N Biren Singh held an all-party meeting on Saturday. The Manipur government has issued a ‘shoot-at-sight’ order to the 55 army columns. The army, Assam Rifles, the CRPF and state police have been joined by around 500 army personnel of the Rapid Action Force.
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Background of Manipur
The state of Manipur is currently witnessing ethnic violence in the recent few days. There is a long history of mutual suspicion between ethnic groups in the valley of the state. The communities that reside in the Imphal Valley and the surrounding hills are at the end of the turmoil. The Meitei community has a long-impending demand to be listed as a Scheduled Tribe in the state.
In the immediate past, the High Court of Manipur issued an order to the state government to recommend an ST tag for the Meitei community to the Union Tribal Ministry. Supporters of the community have argued that the community enjoyed the ST status before its unification with India. On the contrary, the student body in the ten hill districts has opposed the move. They have also organized a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ to oppose the inclusion of the Meitei community in the list.
The security troops have been able to maintain peace and order in the state, however, there have been several small incidents where violence broke out.
Cause of Violence
There have been several long-term and immediate reasons behind the ongoing turmoil in the state. The inclusion of the Meitei community in the list of national STs will give the community sole authority to own land in the hilly region. Meitei is currently categorized as a ‘General’ category.
Kuki tribals who are predominantly Christians oppose the inclusion of Meitei as it will allow the latter to receive government benefits. Another issue is the problem of illegal immigration, in which tribals across Myanmar have been entering India and settling down as ‘tribals’. This inclusion will also give illegal immigrants an undue benefit. Additionally, the Meitei community has also claimed that illegal immigrants are a threat to the state demographics. The trouble occurs amid the G20 and SCO meet being held in India.
The former CM of Manipur Okram Ibobi and Biren Singh have reached a mutual understanding to curb the tensions in the state. They have also agreed to work across party lines to bring the situation to normal.
Security Forces in the Valley
The security forces had a violent engagement with a few armed locals last Friday at Churachandpur. Many hospitals have reported casualties. Some 14 companies of security forces are deployed across Manipur and 20 more are being sent by the centre. The security forces have also been able to evacuate people from the Meitei and Kuki communities. There have been approximately 20,000 rescued, according to sources.
The police have also demanded the miscreants submit their weapons that had been looted from the state police stations. The military is also surveilling the situation using drones in areas bordering Myanmar. This has been necessitated by the illegal immigration of certain communities through the border. According to the sources, activities of insurgency may prove to be detrimental to the state’s efforts in restoring order.
People belonging to the Kuki community have settled in the state valley. The communities and Civil Society Organisations of both communities have agreed to prioritize the safe evacuation of the people who are stuck in high-tension areas or are in a ‘hostage situation’.