05/23/2023, 16.11
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Curfew and internet suspension extended after fresh clashes break out in Manipur

by Nirmala Carvalho

A dispute over space in an Imphal market reignited tensions between Meitei and Kuki, which left many dead and caused devastation in the local Christian community earlier this month.  In the meantime, in New Delhi, India’s Supreme Court requested a report from the state government about the situation. The country’s highest court also slammed the ruling by the Manipur High Court to allow the majority group to demand disadvantaged group status, which sparked disputes over land.

Imphal (AsiaNews) – Following fresh clashes yesterday, the Indian army and paramilitary forces were deployed again in the Indian state of Manipur, while authorities extended the suspension of internet services until Friday in order to maintain public order.

Ethnic Meitei and Kuki clashed in the New Checkon area of the state capital Imphal, ostensibly as a result of a dispute over space in a local market. After receiving reports of arson, the authorities declared a curfew to contain the situation.

Clashes between tribal Kuki and non-tribal Meitei were first reported on 3 May following a "tribal solidarity march" to protest against the demand by the predominantly Hindu majority Meitei for disadvantaged group status.

The violence spread to 11 of the state’s 16 districts, with an official death toll of 60, which unofficially could be as high as 160, mostly tribal Christians.

Since violence broke out nearly 50,000 people have been displaced, while scores of churches and other buildings have been looted and set on fire.

The underlying tensions that led to the clashes were fuelled by the eviction of Kuki villagers from forest land, which triggered unrest.

The Meitei are 64 per cent of the state's population, but live in areas that make up only 10 per cent of the state's territory. As  non-tribal people, they are not allowed to purchase land in the reserved hill areas.

Classifying the Meitei as a disadvantaged group would give them that right, a prospect that greatly troubled tribal communities, the more so since the Manipur High Court ruled in favour of such a change in status.

The Kuki claim that the state government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh, is systematically targeting them, trying to drive them away from forests and their ancestral lands in the hills.

They argue that the government's crackdown on drug trafficking is just a pretext to justify their eviction.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Supreme Court of India asked Manipur’s state government to provide a report on the situation, following a petition filed by the Manipur Tribal Forum.

A division bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said that the Manipur High Court order that led to sectarian violence was "absolutely wrong”, but refused to stay the ruling since an appeal is pending.

“The observation of the Supreme Court is definitely like applying balm on the wounds,” said Father Varghese Velikakkam, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Imphal, which is helping the victims and trying to bring peace between communities.

“The high court order paved the way for violence and now the top court in the country has termed it illegal. This is something heart-warming amidst tensions and fear,” Fr Velikakkam added.

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See also
Violence in Manipur: women raped and forced to parade naked
20/07/2023 14:42
The roots of Manipur’s multifaceted conflict
04/08/2023 20:09
Archdiocese of Bangalore welcomes refugees from Manipur
14/06/2023 19:37
The bishop of Imphal calls for support and peace for people displaced in Manipur
16/05/2023 20:56
Archbishop of Imphal prays in destroyed churches, marking Manipur's sad anniversary
03/05/2024 19:33


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