At least five people, including a policeman, were killed and 12 others injured in fresh violence that erupted on Sunday night in Manipur, where ethnic clashes have claimed the lives of over 80 people in the last month.
The violence broke out after alleged Kuki militants, branded as ‘terrorists’ by the state government, set ablaze many houses in Serou and Sugunu areas in the Kakching district, according to local media reports.
The militants also opened fire at security forces and civilians, killing one policeman and four others. Six people were injured at Sugnu and another four at Serou.
The state government has imposed a curfew and suspended internet services in the affected areas to prevent further escalation of violence.
The fresh violence comes ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s two-day visit to Manipur, which begins on Monday. Shah is expected to review the security situation and hold talks with various stakeholders to restore peace and normalcy in the state.
Manipur has been witnessing ethnic violence since May 3, when a protest march by the Meitei community, demanding Scheduled Tribe status, turned violent and led to attacks on the hill tribes, mainly the Kukis and the Nagas.
The violence was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
The Meiteis account for about 53% of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. The tribals constitute another 40% of the population and reside in the hill districts.
The state government has imposed Article 355 of the Constitution, which empowers the Centre to protect a state against external aggression or internal disturbance.
The Indian Army, Assam Rifles, and other paramilitary forces have been deployed in the state to maintain law and order. Over 10,000 personnel have been deployed to restore peace.
Thousands of people have been displaced by the violence and are living in makeshift camps. Many of them are facing acute shortages of food, water, and medicine.
The international community has expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis and urged the Indian government to ensure the safety and dignity of all communities in Manipur.