Manipur violence: Scores of houses, churches, temples torched by mob, Internet suspended, curfew onTribals waiting to be evacuated to Lamka, Churachandpur from Imphal.
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Army and paramilitary forces were fanned out to control the situation. Union Home Minister Amit Shah called up Chief Minister N Biren Singh to take stock of the situation.

GUWAHATI: Mobs torched scores of houses, churches and temples as the violence in Manipur continued on Thursday.

It erupted after a “Tribal Solidarity March” was taken out in the state’s all ten hill districts on Wednesday to oppose the demand for the inclusion of the Meiteis – the largest community – in the ST category.

Army and paramilitary forces were fanned out to control the situation. Union Home Minister Amit Shah called up Chief Minister N Biren Singh to take stock of the situation.

With folded hands, Singh appealed to people in a video message to maintain peace and harmony. “During the last 24 hours, some incidents of clashes, vandalism and arson were reported from Imphal, Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Kangpokpi and Moreh. Precious lives were lost besides damage to the property of residents,” the Chief Minister said.

He said the incidents were a result of a misunderstanding between two sections of the society. He said the state government was taking all steps to control the situation and additional central paramilitary forces have been requisitioned for deployment to sensitive areas.

“The long-term grievances of communities will be addressed in consultations with people and organisations. We have all co-existed in Manipur peacefully for centuries. We should not allow the culture of communal harmony to be disturbed by vested interests,” Singh further said.

Mobile internet services have remained suspended across the state while a curfew was imposed in six districts.

The violence first broke out on Wednesday at Torbung on the border of the Bishnupur-Churachandpur districts where a mob torched some houses of one community and it soon escalated to some other districts. Tribal Kukis are in the majority in Churachandpur while the Meiteis, a non-tribal community, are in the majority in Bishnupur.

As the violence was raging on Wednesday evening, the Army and the Assam Rifles carried out major operations to rescue people.

“Indian Army & Assam Rifles undertook major rescue operations to evacuate more than 7,500 civilians of all communities relentlessly throughout the night to restore law & order in #Manipur. #IndianArmy remains committed to the well-being & safety of the population of Manipur,” a defence statement said on Thursday.

In a letter to Singh, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga wrote: “I am deeply pained by the violence that has flared up in parts of your state and the underlying tension between the Meitei community and tribals there…”

“I urge you to exercise the kind of leadership that the people of your own state know you are capable of and reach out to all parties involved to try and bring an end to this senseless violence,” Zoramthanga further wrote.

The violence has its genesis in the demand for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST category, the eviction of tribal villagers from alleged forest areas, and a survey of “reserve forests, protected forests, wetlands and wildlife” carried out by the state government.

Thousands of tribals had participated in the solidarity march, organised by All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur, to register a protest against the “persistent demand of Meitei community for inclusion in ST category, support to this by valley legislators” and “the need for taking appropriate measures to collectively protect tribal interests.”

On the other hand, the Meiteis say their inclusion in the ST category will give them, among others, equal rights on the land. Currently, the tribals can buy land in the Imphal valley, which is around 10% of Manipur’s total geographical area, but people belonging to the Meitei community cannot do so in the hills.

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