Manipur Ethnic Tensions Spill Over To Other States Even As Centre Takes Over Law And Order Machinery
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to the chief ministers of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur to take special care in ensuring the safety of minority communities in their states.
The Meitei-tribal ethnic clashes that have rocked Manipur has spilled over to neighbouring states where tensions between the communities have risen.
Youngsters from the Meitei and Kuki communities in Meghalaya’s state capital Shillong on Thursday (4 May) evening. The police arrested 16 people from both the communities.
In Mizoram that lies southwest of Manipur and is inhabited predominantly by the Chin-Kuki-Zo ethnic group, many Meitei families residing in the state have reported feeling insecure.
In Nagaland, which lies north of Manipur, tensions between Meteis and local Nagas have been reported.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to the chief ministers of all these states and requested them to ensure the safety of all communities. Shah asked the chief ministers of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur to take special care in ensuring the safety of minority communities in their states.
The Nagaland and Mizoram governments have held meetings with community leaders to douse tensions. The chief ministers of these two states have also requested the powerful churches to ensure peace.
“We have stepped up vigil and appealed to all communities to maintain peace and harmony. We are involving all institutions in ensuring that the trouble in Manipur does not spill over to Nagaland,” Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio told Swarajya.
Nagaland has opened a helpline for people from the state currently residing or visiting Manipur in case they want to be evacuated. Six persons injured in Thursday's ethnic clashes in Manipur have been admitted to hospitals in Koima.
Meghalaya has also started a helpline for students from the state studying in Manipur. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told Swarajya that the state government is monitoring the situation in Manipur closely and, if necessary, will evacuate the students.
Centre Imposes Article 355, Takes Over Law And Order
The Union Government imposed Article 355 of the Constitution in Manipur late on Thursday (4 May) evening and took a series of steps to enforce the law.
Manipur’s Additional DG (Intelligence), Ashutosh Sinha, has been appointed as the overall ‘Operational Commander’ to restore the rule of law in the state and ensure its return to normalcy.
Sinha will, effectively, be the new police chief of the state and will have all officers reporting to him instead of the incumbent DGP P Doungel. Doungel belongs to the Thadou community, a sub-tribe of the Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic group.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also appointed Kuldip Singh, a former DIG of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as Security Advisor to the Manipur Chief Minister.
The MHA, in a late night order, said that Ashutosh Sinha “will work under the guidance and supervision of Kuldip Singh”.
These developments are a setback to Manipur Chief Minister Nongthonbam Biren Singh since the imposition of Article 355 and other steps taken by the MHA as a virtual show of no-confidence on the Chief Minister.
State Continues To Simmer
Though no fresh violence or clashes were reported from any part of Manipur since late Thursday evening, the situation continued to be very tense. Ethnic tensions are simmering under the surface and it may take just a small spark to ignite another major conflagration.
A top Manipur police officer told Swarajya over phone from state capital Imphal that riotous mobs looted arms from the Police Training Centre at Pangei in Imphal (East) district on Thursday afternoon.
“The mobs were so bold and fearless that they even attacked the 9th Indian Reserve (Mahila) Battalion at Khuman Lampak in Imphal (East) Thursday afternoon. The mobs attempted to loot the armoury, but they were repelled after a fierce gunfight,” said the DIG-ranked officer.
He said that cadres of some proscribed militant outfits were involved in Thursday’s violence in some parts of the state, especially Imphal and Churachandpur.
State authorities fear that the proscribed outfits are taking advantage of the volatile law and order situation to whip up ethnic tensions.
Meanwhile, the condition of BJP MLA Vungzagin Valte, who was attacked by a mob in Imphal, remains critical. Valte was returning to his residence after attending a meeting convened by the Chief Minister at the state secretariat when he was attacked by the mob.
Valte, who was the tribal affairs minister in the last BJP-led government in the state, is a Kuki. A mob stopped his car and attacked him as well as his driver who is also a Kuki. The mob, however, did not touch his personal security officer (PSO), a Manipur Police commando.
Valte and his driver were shifted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal in a critical condition.
The attack on Valte, and the failure of his PSO (said to be a Meitei) to protect him has inflamed passions.
State authorities are also on the edge over the ‘shoot-at-sight’ orders issued to security forces. With a huge number of Army, Assam Rifles and CRPF personnel being deployed in the trouble spots, the state civil administration fears that mishandling of a situation can lead to more trouble.
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