Deadly Clashes in Manipur: Indian Troops Deployed as Violence Persists

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In the north-eastern state of Manipur, India, the situation remains tense as deadly clashes between tribal and non-tribal groups continue for the third consecutive day. The escalating violence has prompted the deployment of Indian troops, with orders to “shoot on sight” and enforce a curfew. As a result of the unrest, approximately 9,000 people have been displaced from their homes, seeking refuge in camps under army protection. The clashes have resulted in numerous casualties, although the exact death toll remains undisclosed.

The ethnic violence in Manipur stems from deep-rooted fault lines between the majority Meitei community, predominantly Hindu and residing in the valley of Imphal, and the predominantly Christian tribes inhabiting the surrounding hills. These tribes, primarily Nagas and Kukis, constitute around 40% of the state’s population of 3.5 million.

Tensions have been brewing for years, as the Meitei community has long been advocating for “scheduled tribe” status, which would grant them reserved quotas in government jobs and educational institutions. However, the tribal groups argue that the Meitei community already enjoys majority status, economic prosperity, higher education levels, and significant political power, with greater representation in the state assembly.

While simmering tensions persisted, the trigger for the recent violence was a court order last month urging the Manipur government to proceed with approving the demand for scheduled tribe status. In response, the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur staged a protest in Churachandpur, a hill district, expressing their discontent with the court ruling.

The demonstration quickly turned violent, with rival groups setting fire to houses. The unrest soon spread to other areas, overwhelming the local police’s ability to restore law and order. Subsequently, the army was deployed on the government’s orders, and further troop reinforcements are being considered.

The evacuation efforts have primarily focused on relocating Meitei individuals from areas predominantly inhabited by tribal communities, and vice versa. Schools, colleges, offices, and shops remain closed, and internet access has been restricted.

As families are moved to makeshift shelters inside government and army buildings, reports indicate a sense of fear and apprehension among the affected population. Basic supplies, including food and water, are being provided by the army, but cramped conditions and limited sleeping space contribute to a heightened sense of vulnerability.

According to eyewitness accounts, the violence has spiraled out of control, with reports of at least 27 churches being burned down. The situation remains volatile, necessitating swift action and efforts to restore peace and stability.

While the state grapples with this crisis, it is worth noting that India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, is currently focused on campaigning for his political party in the ongoing elections in the southern state of Karnataka. As of now, there are no plans for him to visit Manipur.

The clashes in Manipur serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges of communal tensions and the imperative need for concerted efforts to foster understanding, dialogue, and peaceful coexistence among diverse communities. Immediate steps must be taken to address the underlying grievances, promote reconciliation, and ensure the safety and well-being of all residents in the region.

In conclusion, Manipur continues to witness deadly clashes between tribal and non-tribal groups, leading to widespread displacement and destruction. The deployment of Indian troops reflects the seriousness of the situation, with a curfew in place and shoot-on-sight orders. Efforts to quell the violence and restore calm must be intensified, focusing on long-term solutions to address the underlying grievances and promote harmony among the diverse communities in Manipur.