Indian security forces kill 33 ‘militants’ in violence-hit state

Indian security forces kill 33 ‘militants’ in violence-hit state

Clashes erupt in several districts surrounding Imphal Valley in northeastern state of Manipur, where situation still critical in many areas, reports media

By Shuriah Niazi

NEW DELHI (AA) – At least 33 "militants" were killed by security forces in India's northeastern state of Manipur after ethnic violence flared up again on Sunday.

Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh confirmed the killing of Kuki “militants,” whom he referred to as "terrorists," while speaking to reporters in the state capital Imphal, accusing them of being responsible for the recent attacks.

The ethnic Kuki tribe, which is Christian by faith and has settled in the states of Manipur and Mizoram, has been accused by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of receiving assistance from Myanmar to advance its demand for a separate Kukiland.

The clashes broke out in the early morning at several places in various districts surrounding the Imphal Valley, according to the Press Trust of India news agency, which cited an unidentified official.

The house of ruling BJP legislator Khwairakpam Raghumani Singh was also attacked in the Uripok neighborhood of Imphal West district and two of his vehicles were set on fire.

The situation in many parts of the state is still critical, the news agency said.

The clashes in the state are not between two communities, but between militants who want to disintegrate Manipur, Chief Minister Singh said.

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, which grants them some special privileges.

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

Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to visit the state for a three-day trip on Monday.

- 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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