Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh held an all-party meeting on Saturday amid the Kuki-Meitei violence in the state. The security forces continue to maintain order, though small, sporadic violence broke out at some areas, sources said.
Biren Singh and former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh agreed everyone should work across party lines to defuse tensions and appealed to the people to help bring normalcy.
Sources said there have been several casualties in the violence. Doctors at hospitals reported receiving many casualties.
On Friday night, the security forces engaged a few armed locals in a gunfight in Churachandpur, the epicentre of the violence that broke out earlier this week in protest against the Meiteis’ demand for being categorised as Scheduled Tribes (ST).
Some 14 companies of security forces are deployed across Manipur and 20 more are being sent by the centre.
Some 20,000 people – including Meiteis settled in the hills, and Kukis settled in Imphal valley – have been evacuated from violence-hit areas, sources said.
Civil society organisations of both the Meiteis and Kukis have agreed to allow safe passage to people who are in a “hostage situation” or stuck in areas where tensions are high.
The police have asked people to surrender all weapons looted from eight police posts in the past few days. Videos on social media that claim to be taken by eyewitnesses in Manipur show civilians carrying looted guns and roaming around the streets. NDTV could not independently verify them.
The military has stepped up surveillance using drones along the border with Myanmar. Valley-based insurgents holed up in the thick forests along the border “may be detrimental to ongoing efforts to restore normalcy in Manipur”, people familiar with the matter said.
Several factors have led to the violence, the trigger being the demand by the Meiteis, who are “general” category Hindus and mostly settled in Imphal valley, for inclusion under Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The Kuki tribals, who are Christians, don’t want Meiteis to be ST as it would put pressure on government benefits. There is also the problem of illegal immigrants crossing over from Myanmar and settling down in the hills as ‘tribals’, who the Meiteis say are a threat to the state’s demographics.
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