Army chief to visit violence-hit Manipur to take stock of situation
The army and Assam Rifles have deployed 135 columns to defuse the situation by carrying out domination of sensitive and fringe areas
Army chief General Manoj Pande on Saturday left for Manipur on a two-day official visit to take stock of the ground situation in the north-eastern state, which has been gripped by ethnic violence and unrest for more than three weeks, officials familiar with the matter said.
Violent clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3 following the tribal solidarity march organised in the hill districts to protest the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The army and Assam Rifles have deployed 135 columns to defuse the situation by carrying out domination of sensitive and fringe areas, the officials said. A column consists of about 100 personnel.
The army chief will visit various locations where he will interact with the local formation commanders and troops, and obtain a first-hand account of the ground situation, the army said in a statement.
Pande will meet governor Anusuiya Uikey, chief minister N Biren Singh, and chief security advisor Kuldiep Singh on Sunday “to discuss and deliberate over the current situation and future trajectory to restore normalcy at the earliest,” added the statement.
Clashes were triggered in Churachandpur on May 3 after Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF)’s solidarity march against a proposal for ST status to the state’s majority Meitei community.
Violence quickly engulfed the northeastern state where ethnic fault lines run deep, displacing thousands of people who fled burning homes and neighbourhoods.
It claimed more than 70 lives, displaced over 30,000 people, and left more than 200 injured.
Meiteis predominantly live in the Imphal Valley and account for around 53% of the state’s population. The Kuki-Zomi tribes mainly live in the hill districts and comprise around 16% of the population and the Naga tribes form 24%.
About 35,000 civilians were evacuated to safe zones and immediate relief and humanitarian aid was provided to them by the army and Assam Rifles, said the statement from the army.
While most of the violence took place in multiple districts over three days between May 3 and 5, sporadic incidents have continued to erupt, delaying any efforts at restoring normalcy, and showing that ethnic divisions continue to run deep, and there has been little reconciliation.
The crisis began on April 19, when the Manipur high court asked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government to submit recommendations to the Union government to consider the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list. Manipur has 31% reservation for STs in jobs and education.