Widespread violence has hit Manipur amid protests against the inclusion of the majority Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.
The Meitei community, accounting for over half the state’s population, was included in the ST category by the government, a move that has been challenged by other communities on grounds it will deny them access to government jobs and admission to educational institutions. These include tribal communities of Nagas and Kukis, that make up about 40 per cent of the state population.
The violence broke Wednesday during a ‘tribal solidarity march’ called by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur in the Torbung area of Churachandpur district.
Protest marches were held in the state’s ten districts. During the march in Torbung area of Churachandpur district, an armed mob allegedly attacked people of the Meitei community, leading to retaliatory attacks in the valley districts, which escalated the violence throughout the state, according to police.
As violence flared and incidents of arson were reported, chief minister Biren Singh’s government on Wednesday banned mobile internet for five days to avoid further escalation.
The army and paramilitary forces such as the Assam Rifles have been deployed to restore law-and-order. Lt Col Mahender Rawat, a Guwahati-based Public Relations Officer (Defence), said around 4,000 people have been evacuated so far from violence-hit areas.
Mary Kom, the Olympic medal-winning boxer and Rajya Sabha MP, appealed for calm, tweeting ‘My state Manipur is burning, kindly help,’, tagging prime minister Narendra Modi and his office, as well as home minister Amit Shah and defence minister Rajnath Singh.
Kom appealed to the state and centre to work together, saying, ‘I ask the state and central governments to take steps and (to) maintain peace and security… this is my request.’
Police have blamed ‘anti-social elements’ using social media to share images and hate speeches and videos.
Assembly elections in Manipur were held last year, marked by violent incidents, leading to Biren Singh’s BJP government retaining power.
Earlier today Singh blamed ‘prevailing misunderstandings between two sections of society’ for the violence and said all grievances will be addressed after due consultations.
Singh confirmed reports of vandalism and arson from capital Imphal and other areas, including Churachandpur, Bishnupur and Kangpokpi and an unspecified number of deaths in the violence.
Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to CM Singh and took stock of the situation in the state, sources said on Thursday, as the Manipur government imposed curfew in eight districts.
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