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Manipur: More Than Five Dead, Dozens Injured Over the Last Two Weeks Amid Ongoing Ethnic Unrest

This follows the 255 days of violence that began in the state on May 3, 2023.

New Delhi: More than five people have died and several people, including personnel from the Central and state forces, were injured over the last two weeks in Manipur. This follows the 255 days of violence that began in the state on May 3, 2023.

According to official figures, the ethnic violence claimed 175 lives, as of September 2023. It resulted in over 70,000 displacements and extensive damage, including 4,786 houses and 386 religious structures.

Over the past few months, the people of the state have been awaiting justice from both the state and central governments. In the wake of this, another recent incident in the border town of Moreh in Manipur’s Kuki-dominated Tengnoupal district, where a gunfight has persisted for months, is witnessing a surge in the number of casualties.

The situation in Moreh

Moreh is said to be under the dominance of the Kuki community.

Nevertheless, in the past two weeks, Arambai Tenggol, a Meitei socio-cultural organization, has purportedly detained at least three men, including a teacher named Peter Holkholal Mate, and two villagers, Lamminthang Lupho and Jangkholen Lupho of Chanvangphai Moreh. These individuals were allegedly subjected to severe beatings and abandoned in the jungle.

Currently, they are recovering in hospitals.

The Moreh Private Schools Association, condemning the attack on Holkholal Mate, said, “Peter was brutally tortured by police commandos on the night of 30 December.” Attempts to reach out to Peter have been unsuccessful, as he is not in a condition to speak. Images received from a source show extensive injuries all over his body. Besides teaching, Peter also serves as the secretary of youth at St. George Catholic Church, Moreh.

The incident involving Lamminthang Lupho and Jangkholen Lupho occurred on January 2.

Expressing concern over the worsening situation, Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) leader and an advocate in Moreh said, “We can no longer trust the police. Members of Arambai Tenggol are using police uniforms to roam around freely and pick up our men in the area.”

According to a written complaint submitted by Peter’s uncle to the Moreh police station, Peter was arrested by police CDO personnel when he was returning home. He was allegedly tortured throughout the night in the Police IB/CDO complex. “They threatened him not to inform the matter to AR, GR, BSF, and CSO leaders – Peter told me they were members of Arambai.”

Arambai Tenggol, Meitei Leepun, and Kuki Militants are groups that both communities have accused of being involved in the killing of members from the other community.

Also read: Manipur: 2 Editors Arrested in 8 Days Over Reports on Law and Order in Moreh

‘Kuki men shoot Meiteis looking For wood’

In another incident, four Meitei villagers who had gone out to collect wood were allegedly shot by Kuki armed men after venturing into a forest along Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts on January 10 (Wednesday). The Manipur police confirmed the deaths on January 11. One person was missing, and the search for him is still ongoing, according to the police.

Per a press note issued by Manipur police, the deceased were identified as Ibomcha Singh (51) and his son Anand Singh (20), Romen Singh (38), and Ahanthem Dara (56). Their bodies were found near Haotak Phailen. The search for Ahanthem Dara is still ongoing.

The Wire attempted to reach out to both civil society organisations (CSOs) of the Meitei and Kuki community to inquire about the possibility of dialogue between them.

Athouba, spokesperson of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), a civil society organisation, said, “The primary responsibility for quelling violence lies with state and central forces, necessitating the disarming and cessation of the two conflicting groups. Without this intervention, any attempt to restore peace becomes futile. The initiation of dialogue can only occur once the situation normalises, paving the way for a civilian-level resolution. We’ve consistently urged the government to take decisive action, which, unfortunately, falls short of satisfying the people’s expectations.”

Regarding the ongoing dialogue, Athouba said, “The central government has control over the state government. [Union home minister] Amit Shah himself has often mentioned that hills will be taken care of by them. A security advisor, appointed by the Centre, has also taken over the charge of unified command. So, we can assume that the security issues and law and order are being completely taken over by the Centre.”

Ginza Vuolzong, the spokesperson for the Kuki Community ITLF, has a different perspective on the ongoing violence and killing of innocent people. Speaking to The Wire, he said, “I don’t condone the killing, but this is wartime in Manipur. Many innocent people have been killed in the conflict. Knowing that the conflict is going on, it would be wise and safe for everyone not to cross others’ territories.”

Ginza also mentioned the demand of the Kuki community for a separate state and administration, which has not been fulfilled yet. He also expressed the need for a Greater Mizoram.

Also read: What’s Behind the Manipur Violence and Why Stopping It Poses a Test for Modi

Congress’s yatra

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra was scheduled to begin from Imphal on January 14. However, the party was denied permission by the Manipur government, prompting a change in the location. The yatra is now set to begin from Khongjom in the Thoubal district.

This is Congress’s second yatra after the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The march will start on January 14, 2024 from Manipur and end on March 20 in Mumbai. It is expected to cover 6,200 kilometres across 14 states.