Amit Shah to arrive in ethnic violence-hit Manipur today

Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday called for peace and said he will visit the northeastern state to talk with all stakeholders

Union home minister Amit Shah is scheduled to arrive in ethnic violence-hit Manipur on Monday as tensions have continued to simmer in parts of the northeastern state.

The violence was triggered after the Manipur high court on April 27 directed that the Meities, Manipur’s dominant community accounting for 53% of its population, be included on the Scheduled Tribes list.

Mostly tribal Kukis took to the streets against the directions beginning May 3. The violence that followed left 74 people dead and over 200 injured. More than 1,000 homes were burnt while over 40,000 people have been displaced.

Shah on Thursday called for peace and said he will visit the northeastern state to talk with all stakeholders. It was the Union government’s first major public intervention since ethnic clashes broke out.

Speaking at an event in neighbouring Assam, Shah said only talks between various groups can bring calm. The comments came a day after fresh bouts of violence were reported from a district in Manipur that was previously relatively unscathed.

Shah said he will stay for three days in Manipur but before that, both groups should remove mistrust and suspicion and ensure that peace is restored.

Union minister of state for home Nityanand Rai arrived in the state on Thursday and told reporters that Shah will arrive in Manipur on Monday to take stock of the situation and stay till June 1.

The army has been deployed in the region since May 4. Thousands of security personnel have been patrolling the streets of major cities and remote villages. Curfew has been clamped in swathes of the state and the internet has been suspended for over three weeks now.

Hours after Shah’s comments last Thursday, Letzamang Haokip, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker from the Kuki community, said they will welcome the home minister but would not meet him in the presence of chief minister N Biren Singh.

Haokip was among the nine tribal legislators who demanded a separate administration for the tribals.

Last week, a group of 13 Manipur lawmakers, including three ministers, from the BJP, National People’s Party, and the Naga People’s Front, also met Shah in Guwahati.

N Biren Singh on Sunday said at least 40 Kuki militants have been killed in a coordinated security operation in Manipur’s Imphal Valley over the past four days.

The chief minister said the latest round of “conflict is not between communities but between Kuki militants and security forces.” He said militants armed with AK-47s, M-16s, and sniper rifles fired at civilians.

On Thursday, the army, Assam Rifles, and state police began combing operations in the state. Army chief General Manoj Pande on Saturday arrived in the state for a two-day visit to review the operations.

Singh said the crackdown was against Kuki militant groups that in 2008 signed a suspension of operations agreement with the government confining their cadres to designated camps.

The state government has blamed these 25 groups for exacerbating the violence. Kuki leaders have blamed two radical Meitei groups – Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun – for the violence. They have also alleged that the army crackdown is an attempt to target the community, a claim rejected by the government.

On Sunday, Kuki groups refuted Singh’s statements and added that no Kuki militant groups were involved in violence as they are in designated camps according to the provisions of the agreement.

Kukis have been at the receiving end in Meitei-majority areas such as Imphal Valley. In the hill districts, where the Kukis are the dominant community, Meitei homes, and establishments have been attacked.

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