Army Continues Flag Marches in Violence-hit Manipur Districts, Govt Issues ‘Shoot at Sight’ Order

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IMPHAL — The Army and the Assam Rifles were continuing to conduct flag marches in violence-hit Manipur on Thursday while additional soldiers were airlifted to the northeastern state, where the situation turned volatile after thousands turned up for the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ on Wednesday to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.

Meanwhile, in view of the prevailing situation, the Manipur government authorised all District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Magistrates and all Executive Magistrates to issue “Shoot at sight orders” in extreme cases.

“In view of the prevailing law and order situation following the unwanted incidents occurred after the Tribal Solidarity March, on May 3 and in order to maintain public order and tranquility in the state, the Governor of Manipur (Anusuiya Uikey) is pleased to authorise all District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Magistrates and all Executive Magistrates, Special Executive Magistrates detailed by the District Magistrates concerned to issue ‘Shoot at Sight’ orders in extreme cases whereby all forms of persuasion, warning, reasonable force, etc. had been exhausted under the provisions of law under CrPC, 1973 and the situation could not be controlled.”

A defence spokesman said that Army and Assam Rifles personnel conducted flag marches and aerial reconnaissance in areas of Khuga, Tampa, and Khomaujanbba areas of Churachandpur district, Mantripukhri, Lamphel, and Koeirangi area of Imphal West District, and Sugnu in Kakching districts.

“Total 55 columns of Army and Assam Rifles have been deployed for restoration of law and order so far. Additional 14 columns were also kept on standby for deployment on short notice,” the Defence PRO told IANS.

He said that around 10,000 villagers of different communities were given shelter in Army and Assam Rifles camps in different districts.

In the wake of the violence in Manipur, Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Chief Minister N. Biren Singh on Thursday during which they discussed the current situation in the state.

According to official sources, the Union Minister took stock of the law and order situation during the phone call.

In an appeal to the people, Biren Singh urged them to maintain peace and calm and cooperate with the state government.

“Wednesday’s incidents took place due to misunderstanding between the communities. The government will settle the genuine demands and grievances after talking with all the communities and leaders,” Singh said in a video message.

He said that his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga also spoke to him and discussed the protection of the tribals in Manipur.

Rumour of several deaths are being spread creating problems for the law enforcement agencies. However, authorities have not confirmed any fatalities.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma and six-time world champion boxer M.C. Mary Kom also in a video message urged the people to maintain ethnic harmony, peace and calm.

The situation in Manipur turned volatile as thousands of tribals on Wednesday turned up for the march called by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) in all the 10 hill districts to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST category.

Acting on a writ petition filed by the Meetei (Meitei) Trade Union, the Manipur High Court on April 19 had directed the state government to consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list expeditiously.

The valley is dominated by Meitei and they are seeking the ST category status, alleging infiltration from Bangladesh and Myanmar, destroying the demographic pattern in the state.

Following the rally, clashes, attacks, counter-attacks among different communities and burning of houses and shops took place in different districts, forcing authorities to suspend mobile internet services for five days, while a night curfew was also imposed in several tension-ridden mountainous districts, including Imphal West, Bishnupur, Jiribam, Tenugopal, and Churachandpur.

The state government on Wednesday night requisitioned the Army and Assam Rifles to control the ethnic violence in at least six districts.

“The columns of Army and Assam Rifles along with state police intervened to control the situation on Wednesday night. The violence was controlled by Thursday morning. Flag marches are being conducted to maintain the situation under control,” the defence spokesman told IANS.

“Shifting of villagers to safer areas away from violence-hit locations is under progress. Indian Army and Assam Rifles undertook major rescue operations to evacuate the civilians of all communities relentlessly throughout the night to restore law and order in Manipur. Indian Army remains committed to the well being and safety of the population of Manipur,” a defence statement said.

Police said that sporadic incidents of clashes, attacks and arson took place in several districts and tension prevailed in the few hill districts after the Wednesday’s ATSUM-backed rallies.

Tension prevailed in Churachandpur, Senapati, Chandel, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal, where shutting down of markets and suspension of public transport forced the authorities to impose a curfew, and suspend mobile internet.

Tribals – the Nagas and Kukis who are mainly Christians – constitute about 40 per cent of the state’s around three million population and inhabit the hill districts which account for much of the state’s land.

Protesting against the state government’s action to evict them from forest lands and destruction of illegal poppy cultivation in the reserve and protected forests, the tribals had on March 10 organised protest rallies in three districts — Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal, during which five people were injured.

Fresh incidents of violence, including arson and vandalisation of government properties, were triggered on April 27 in Churachandpur district after the tribals launched fresh protests against the state government’s action against illegal poppy cultivation. — IANS

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