At least 36 dead in violence in Manipur; mob came with 'JCB, arms’

So far, 13,000 people have been rescued by the Army, following the clash between Kuki tribe and the majority Meitei community.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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At least 36 bodies of those who succumbed to the mob violence in Manipur – which broke out between Kuki tribe and the majority Meitei community on May 3 – have been received by two district hospitals in capital city Imphal, sources said. The government has not yet reported the death toll.

A tax assistant, a CRPF jawan and a class 10 student are said to be among those found dead. 

“We have received 14 bodies in the last two days. Two died at our hospital during treatment, while the others were brought dead. All these deaths are linked to the violence,” said Lokeshwar Singh, medical superintendent of the state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal.

The hospital has received 64 people injured in the violence, of which two succumbed, and 29 are still being treated. “Four injured people are critical at present,” Singh told Newslaundry. Most people have been injured in stone-pelting or have pellet gunshot wounds.

The morgue at Regional Institute of Medical Sciences has so far received 22 bodies of those who died in the violence, two local journalists told Newslaundry. However, medical superintendent Sanjib Singh Nepram said the exact number of fatalities could be shared by the forensic team at the morgue. The forensic team could not be reached immediately.

The central government on May 4 invoked the Article 355 of the Constitution to take charge of the law-and-order situation in Manipur. The state government, meanwhile, has authorised district magistrates to issue “shoot at sight” orders in “extreme cases”.

Further, in his address to the media on Thursday, Manipur DGP P Doungel urged people, who had “snatched arms from seven to eight locations” to return them in the “next few days”. He said, “Otherwise, we will be forced to take very stringent action.”

Imphal and Churachandpur were engulfed in violence between Kuki tribe and Meitei community after a ‘solidarity march’ on Wednesday, led by All Tribal Students' Union of Manipur or ATSUM, against the Meitei community’s demand for the Scheduled Tribe status. The visuals of the flare-up that have flooded social media platforms showed people wielding arms, and burning and looting houses and places of worship.

The tribal student body’s former vice-president, Vanlanlian Khaute, told Newslaundry that the most affected areas in Churachandpur district are on its periphery, while the situation in the city “is under control”. Churachandpur is dominated by tribal communities, including Kukis.

So far, 13,000 people have been rescued and taken to military premises, the Army said in a statement. Over 10,000 people from the tribal community are sheltered in the Imphal valley. In Churachandpur, more than 3,000 Meiteis were rescued by security forces and brought to the deputy commissioner’s building, a BSF camp and two other camps.     

'They came with JCB machines and arms'

In the wake of the clashes, many were forced to flee their homes, seeking safety. A banker in Imphal fled his home with his family as a mob armed with guns descended in his locality in Khongsai Veng of Imphal East. “On Wednesday night, a crowd tried to break the gate of our locality. They could not as we resisted. The next day, a bigger crowd armed with guns returned with a JCB machine. We had to flee and were rescued by the Army,” he said.

Around 80-90 houses of the tribal community were burnt down, the banker who belongs to the Kuki community alleged. He and his family were taken to 2nd Manipur Rifles Ground in Imphal West, cordoned by security forces. Around 500 people are camping at the rescue centre.

The banker, who has served in the para-military forces too, flew out to Agartala with his family on Thursday afternoon. “People at the camp were not looking for a destination. They wanted to get out of Manipur. It could be Dimapur or Bengaluru or Chennai to Vizag,” he said, adding that passengers were getting tickets booked at the airport due to the internet shutdown.

The banker said, “I called some of my classmates and friends who live in the neighbouring colony and asked: ‘Why didn’t you help us?’ They said they did not know who these armed people were and their number was too high (to contend with).”

His cousin, a class 10 student, was shot dead in the violence. “He was shot, and died on the spot. His body is at the RIMS morgue. His father, who serves in the Army, may not be in a position to talk right now,” he said.     

Another government employee, a tribal woman, was rescued on Thursday morning and taken to an Assam Rifles camp at Leimakhong in Imphal West, said, "The tribal villagers who lived around the camp have also sought refuge in the army base. I don’t know the exact number of people in the camp, but in the room that I am in, there are 66 people."

The woman, who was rescued from her rented accommodation, said, "I don’t know how long we will stay here. But at the moment, I want to fly out of the state… My sisters who are in the city were told that they could give their names to the Army for their drop to the airport on Saturday or Sunday."

After the first sign of trouble on Wednesday night, she called her family for rescue. The following day, the Army rescued her. "The masses are misinformed. My landlady and neighbours, who are from the Meitei community, told me that Kukis and Mizos are creating trouble and killing people. I did not reply. I entered my room, shut the door, and called my family for rescue." She said adequate food and water are being provided by the Army.

Meanwhile, at Churachandpur’s DC camp, Newslaundry spoke to Joyshankar Heisnam, who is married to a policewoman from a tribal community.

“Meiteis were attacked, and their houses and temples burnt down. I don’t know when my kids and others could be taken to a safer place. The camp was surrounded by a mob at night. Though the security forces are here, we don’t feel safe. Food and water are not adequate because there are a lot of children and women,” he said. Heisnam said two days ago a woman who was brought to the camp succumbed to bullet injuries.

ATSUM had organised “solidarity” marches across the state on Wednesday, against the widening of ST quota base to include the Meitei community, fearing that they will subsequently lose their job security and land to the Meiteis. Currently, non-tribal communities cannot buy land in the hilly areas. The valley is dominated by Meiteis, while tribal communities, including Nagas and Kukis, are a majority in the hills.  

Also see
article imageBehind Manipur flare-up, ST list clamour, migration anxieties


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