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Manipur violence: Protesters block roads leading to riot-hit areas

By, New Delhi
Jun 15, 2023 05:31 AM IST

Manipur violence: In different parts of the state, several groups led by women, have blocked roads over the past one month

In the hours before 9 people were gunned down in Imphal East’s Khanellok village, a violent mob burnt as many as eight villages along the 17 kilometre route between Khamenlok and Govajang, even as a group of 600 people led by elderly women, blocked the road that leads to the area preventing the intervention of security forces in what has become a feature of the violence that has roiled the state for well over a month.

Villagers stop army officials at Chanung in Taretkhel area of Imphal.
Villagers stop army officials at Chanung in Taretkhel area of Imphal.

Also read: 9 killed, 10 injured in fresh flare-up in ethnic violence-hit Manipur

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Security officials aware of the matter said that they would submit an incident report to the state’s security adviser Kudiep Singh that the Tuesday incidents of arson, the deaths and the road blockade could all be pre-meditated because the group had blocked the road at Chanung in Taretkhul in Khamenlok one day before the incident.

Security officials said that despite reports of arson in the eight villages being reported by security forces on Tuesday evening, a team of between 200 and 250 Indian Army and Assam Rifles personnel could not reach the spot who refused to let the forces go deeper inside Khamenlok.

Also Read | Manipur peace panel: Kukis unhappy, may not attend meetings; Meiteis welcome move

“On Tuesday evening, when there were reports of mobs of 500-600 people burning villages in Khamenlok and additional reinforcements of Assam Rifles and Army were ordered to the rushed to the area. But the teams that left from Kangpokpi district, around 50 km from Taretkhul, were stopped at Chanung in the Taretkhel area, which is the gateway to Khamenlok. The mob of around 600 had placed women, mostly elderly women in the front and blocked the way, so this is why the security forces were unable to enter the place,” said an official aware of the details.

The official added that they had received reports of mobs burning eight villages – Govajang, Songjan, Jordenphai, Thambol, Aigijang, P Phinom, Khuipung, and Choullophai. Residents of these villages had moved further up the forested hills when the mobs descended on their homes, and the violent groups then burnt the abandoned houses. While there were no reports of casualties in the arson, security officials said, the number of houses burnt in the villages is more than 100.

The official confirmed that until late on Wednesday night, the road was still blocked and there were attempts by senior officials of the Army and the Assam Rifles mob had blocked the road and there were attempts by senior officials of Army and Assam Rifles with the group urging them to stop the blockade. “Till now, the security agencies have not used force to remove the protesters from the road anywhere in the state. The people blocking the roads are using women as shield in the front when doing so,” the official added.

A small team of Assam Rifles, who were already in Khamenlok as part of the army’s combing operations later visited the area even as the larger group, equipped to handle large scale mob violence has remained at Chanung.

HT contacted Shivakant Singh, superintendent of police (Imphal East) but there was no response despite messages and phone calls.

Also read: Manipur conflict: Political parties urge governor to convene special session

In different parts of the state, several groups led by women, have blocked roads over the past one month. The mobs have accused forces sent by Centre of taking sides or indulging in violence themselves. Sections of the NH2 highway have also been blocked at different dates in protest by the groups, mostly led by women. At most places, security agencies have not used force to evacuate the protests because most of them are led by women, especially elderly women.

At least 115 people have died in the ethnic clashes that have roiled the state since May 3 this year. Before Tuesday’s incident, a 22-year-old man was shot dead in Manipur’s Churachandpur district on Monday, as the state struggles to return to normalcy more than a month after the ethnic strife first erupted on May 3.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prawesh Lama covers crime, policing, and issues of security in Delhi. Raised in Darjeeling, educated in Mumbai, he also looks at special features on social welfare in the National Capital.

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