Manipur: Tensions Still High; Over 7,500 Have Fled to Mizoram So Far

In Imphal on Monday, a few houses were set ablaze on Chassad Avenue, Imphal East District under Porompat Police Station, around 2 pm.

New Delhi: After the recurrence of violence in Manipur on Sunday night and during the day on Monday, the situation in the state remains tense. The violence in the state first escalated on May 3, and more than 70 people lost their lives in the first few days after that.

In Imphal on Monday, a few houses were set ablaze on Chassad Avenue, Imphal East District under Porompat Police Station, around 2 pm. Khongsai, a member of the Kuki Students Organisation, told The Wire, “Four houses were set on fire, and approximately 40 people were affected by the situation.”

Khongsai shared videos with The Wire depicting charred houses and people evacuating.

On Sunday too, Manipur witnessed violence in Imphal West district, where three individuals were injured due to the firing.

Khongsai alleged that a mob had also targeted a church, the Independent Church of India, resulting in its destruction. Approximately half a kilometre away from Chassad Avenue, in New Lambulane, George Onjamang Haokip also alleged that the Independent Church of India was burned down by Meiteis.

The escalating tension has prompted a significant number of Kuki people to flee the state capital for their safety.. Khongsai revealed, “At present, more than 7,000 refugees have sought shelter in Mizoram due to communal violence in Manipur, particularly in Imphal and its surrounding areas.”

According to a PTI report, over 7,500 people from Manipur have fled to neighbouring Mizoram because of the violence. A total of 7,527 ethnic Zos, known as Kukis in Manipur, have crossed over to Mizoram till 5 pm on Monday, PTI quoted an official as saying.

Displaced people have reportedly been provided temporary shelter in relief camps in Mizoram. The part of Manipur that borders Mizoram is largely inhabited by Kukis.

Houses were set on fire in Imphal on Monday. Photo: Screengrab from video

The majority Meitei community has been demanding Scheduled Tribe status, but the hill tribes of the Nagas and Kukis are opposed to this demand. The violence began during a solidarity march organised by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur against the Meiteis’ demand and a high court order stating that the state government should recommend ST status for Meiteis.

According to Khongsai, there is alleged involvement of present Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba in the ongoing events. He alleged, “More than 20 village houses have been burned down by the Meitei volunteer group called Arambai Tenggol.” Arambai Tenggol takes its name from a weapon historically used by Manipuri kings. The presence of Arambai Tenggol and another group called Meitei Leepun has been noticed by residents over the past one year, particularly on social media platforms.

Khongsai further claimed that the Arambai Force is said to be recruited by Sanajaoba. The Congress party’s Manipur in-charge, Bhakta Charan Das, recently told The Hindu that outfits like Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun, allegedly enjoying chief minister N. Biren Singh’s support, have also been responsible for the destruction of churches belonging to the Meitei community.

Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh addressed the media on Monday, saying three individuals, including a former MLA, were apprehended for their alleged involvement in the violent incidents. Singh said that three people had suffered minor injuries in Imphal West district on Sunday night. The culprits, who were in possession of double-barrel guns, were apprehended by the police, he said.

In another incident on Monday, a minor altercation took place in the New Lambulane area of Imphal city. Singh alleged that an ex-MLA was implicated in the conspiracy. Two armed personnel, armed with single-barrel guns, reportedly threatened vendors and ordered them to vacate the vicinity. As a consequence, both individuals, along with the former MLA, were taken into custody.

Earlier, Singh had claimed that the unrest in the state was not due to a “fight between communities,” but instead because of resistance to the government’s policy of forest conservation and poppy clearing, reports by the Indian Express and Imphal Free Press said.