Panel to investigate ethnic violence in northeastern Indian state

Panel to investigate ethnic violence in northeastern Indian state

More than 70 people reportedly killed in violence in Manipur

By Anadolu staff

ANKARA (AA) - A panel led by a retired High Court judge will probe the ethnic violence that has engulfed the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, the Indian home minister announced on Thursday.

More than 70 people have reportedly been killed and thousands have been displaced following violence that erupted during protests early last month against the inclusion of the majority Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes category, giving them some special privileges.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, who is on a four-day visit to Manipur, told reporters that a probe panel will investigate the violence and a peace committee will be set up in a bid to ensure the return of peace in the state.

According to local media, the situation in many parts of the state continues to remain tense, with people facing shortages of medicines and other day-to-day items.

While announcing a total compensation of 1 million Indian Rupees ($12,129) for the kin of the deceased, Shah said the police cases registered into the violence will be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation – India's premier investigating agency.

Shah also issued a warning to those who have looted weapons and asked them to surrender before authorities.

During his visit, Indian Home Minster Amit Shah held wide-ranging discussions with civil society organizations, and the two communities as well, according to a government statement.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch said Indian authorities should "immediately and impartially investigate ongoing killings by ethnic groups and security forces" in Manipur.

“The violence in Manipur state since early May has left communities devastated, and it’s crucial for the government to restore order in a rights-respecting manner and hold to account those responsible for abuses,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“Accounts of partisan involvement by security forces in the killings has increased distrust of the authorities, who should work with community leaders to end the violence,” Ganguly added.

- What led to violence?

The violence last month 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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