1 killed in new outbreak of violence, bringing death toll from communal riots in Indian state to 70

1 killed in new outbreak of violence, bringing death toll from communal riots in Indian state to 70

Indefinite curfew imposed again to maintain law and order in Bishnupur district, says police official

By Shuriah Niazi

NEW DELHI (AA) – At least one person was killed in a new outbreak of violence in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur as the death toll from communal riots reached 70, prompting local authorities to reimpose curfew in a district to maintain law and order, a police official said on Thursday.

The official told Anadolu over the phone, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, that the man was killed in the Bishnupur district on Wednesday morning by suspected Kuki militants, referring to the ethnic tribe present in Manipur and Mizoram states who are alleged to be receiving help from Myanmar and demanding a separate Kukiland.

An indefinite curfew has been reimposed in Bishnupur district, the official said, adding that around 70 people have been killed so far during the unrest that erupted in the state earlier this month.

The situation is still described by local media as critical in many parts of the state.

On May 4, the army was called in to assist law enforcement after a curfew was imposed in eight districts of Manipur following violence that erupted during protests against the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes category, giving them some special privileges.

In another incident in the state, Public Works Department Minister Govindas Konthoujam’s house was attacked and vandalized in Bishnupur district on Wednesday. The minister and his family were not present in the house when the incident occurred, the police official said.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced on Thursday that he will visit the violence-plagued state soon and stay for three days.

"I will go to Manipur in a few days and stay for three days to talk to the people of Manipur about establishing peace," Shah said.

The minister said the federal government will ensure that justice is served to all who suffered in the clashes, but that people must engage in dialogue to ensure peace in the state.

Thousands of people have been displaced by ethnic violence in the state, forcing them to flee to neighboring Mizoram.

Manipur-based human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam said the main reason why the violence still continues is the government's handling of the situation.

"The government isn't interested in resolving the issue. It should have started the peace initiative by now," Babloo told Anadolu.

"Relief work has not begun. We haven't seen any indication of how they plan to handle the situation. It's been three weeks and no efforts have been made to bring peace to the state," he alleged, adding that the government is not making any serious efforts.

- What led to violence?

The violence followed a Manipur High Court ruling on April 19 that directed the state government to submit recommendations for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe category, which enraged the state's tribal population. The Meitei people are the predominant ethnic group of Manipur.

A community granted Scheduled Tribe status is entitled to political representation, reserved seats in schools, and government jobs. Because of existing laws, the Meitei community, which accounts for nearly 60% of the state's population, is not permitted to settle in hilly areas.

The Naga and Kuki tribes are concerned that if the Maitei community is granted Scheduled Tribe status, their proportions in government jobs and landownership will shrink.

The Meitei community seeks to be recognized as a tribe as well. The community approached the Manipur High Court for this. Their argument is that Meitei should be recognized as a tribe in order to protect this community, their ancestors' land, traditions, culture, and language.

The Meitei community is mostly Hindu. There is a greater percentage of Meitei in the state’s population. On the other hand, Nagas and Kukis communities are mostly Christians.

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