Imphal/Guwahati/New Delhi: The death toll in the ethnic clashes between Manipur’s Meitei people and tribesmen has climbed to 60 in the state, on Monday, even as the Army and the Assam Rifles along with other security forces have stepped up their vigil.
The state chief minister, N Biren Singh, expressed his anguish over the loss of life and property and called for peace. Talking before the media, Singh said, “Around 60 innocent people have lost their lives, 231 people suffered injuries, and around 1,700 houses burned down in the unfortunate incident of May 3.”
Singh then added, “I appeal to people to bring peace and calm to the state. Transportation of stranded persons to their respective locations has started.”
Talking tough on the perpetrators of the violence and failure of officials in the administration to control it, the Manipur chief minister then said, “A high-level inquiry will be conducted to fix responsibility on persons (and/or) groups who instigated the violence and government servants who didn’t meet their responsibilities.”
Singh then urged people not to believe in rumours and gave figures of the people rescued from the violence. The chief minister said, “I appeal to all not to spread or believe unfounded and baseless rumours. Till now, 35,655 persons including 1,593 students moved to safer locations.”
Earlier, Singh held an all-party meeting to discuss the situation in the state and how to move forward in ensuring that normalcy returns at the earliest.
Supreme Court directs Centre to extend all help to affected
Meanwhile, while hearing a bunch of pleas on the Manipur situation, the Supreme directed the Union government to take all necessary steps to alleviate the suffering of the innocent civilians in the violence-hit state, protect their lives and places of worship.
In his direction, the chief justice of India, DY Chandrachud, said, “All remedial steps will be taken care of by the solicitor general [Tushar Mehta]. We emphasize the need for arrangements to be made in relief camps – foods and medicine, necessary precaution for the rehabilitation of displaced people, and protecting places of worship.”
“Authorities will make necessary arrangements for the medical needs at the Army hospital or any other hospital,” the chief justice added.
Justice Chandrachud further said, “We are not going into this forum as asked by the solicitor general. This is a public forum like others. We have made our concerns clear – protection, stabilization, and evacuation [of violence-hit civilians].” “This is a humanitarian issue, and we have no reason to doubt that the solicitor general is not doing anything,” the CJI said.
Army deploys drones, forces step up vigil
To control the violence and restore normalcy in Manipur, the Centre has deployed over 100 columns of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles personnel. In the past three days, the Army and the Assam Rifles have deployed drones and helicopters to intensify surveillance not just in the state’s hinterland but also along the India-Myanmar international border.
Officials said the deployment of drones and helicopters will not only keep an eye on the activities of the mobs and anti-socials taking part in the violence but also to keep tabs on insurgent groups who are based across the border in Myanmar but operating in Manipur.
According to latest reports, the Army and the Assam Rifles have rescued around 25,000 people displaced or stranded due to the deadly violence that has engulfed the state. Most of the rescued people have been relocated to Army and Assam Rifles camps in Manipur and neighbouring states.
Other security forces, like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Manipur Police, etc, have also stepped up their vigil and patrolling to stop the mobs from carrying out violent acts. They have been patrolling the villages and appealing for calm while rescuing displaced and stranded people.
The Army and the Assam Rifles too have been carrying out flag marches to keep the situation under control.
Shah says ‘situation under control’
On Monday, the Union home minister, Amit Shah, speaking for the first time on Manipur violence, said the situation in the state was under control as curfew remained in force.
Speaking to India Today, Shah said, “The [Supreme] Court has passed an order. This will be discussed with all concerned stakeholders, and the Manipur government will take appropriate decisions after consultations. There is no need for any person or group to be fearful.”
Earlier, on Sunday, the Union law minister, Kiren Rijiju, said the Centre was making all necessary efforts to restore normalcy in the state at the earliest.
The law minister said, “The Centre is taking all possible actions. It is very unfortunate. Many people have died, and losses have been incurred. We are all brothers. People should live in unity. People in Manipur should maintain brotherhood. Issues can be solved through dialogue. Under the Modi regime, the northeast has gone very far in terms of development.”
As India Sentinels reported earlier, clashes erupted between Meitei people and tribal groups, especially Kukis, in an area bordering Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts last week, on Wednesday. This happened after the All-Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur took out a march protesting against the demand to grant the Meitei community “scheduled tribe” status, following an April 19 directive of the Manipur high court that asked the state government to furnish its recommendation on the issue before the court.
Since then, the violence turned deadly and spread across the state. The violence even took the life of a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable, Chonkholen Haokip, who was shot dead when he tried to stop men setting a village on fire. The constable was on leave from duty at that time.