Fighting in Myanmar spills over into Manipur again
As rebels pursue their campaign against Myanmar’s military, fresh border tensions rise between the Meitei and Chin militias, who are ethnically related to the Kuki. A Myanmar national treated at an Imphal hospital dies when a mob storms the medical establishment enraged by the presence of the “invader". Meanwhile, the Commission of Inquiry set up in June by the Indian government into the violence has not yet held any hearing.
Milan (AsiaNews/Agencies) – As war escalates in Myanmar, the situation in neighbouring Manipur, a state in north-eastern India, is getting worse since inter-ethnic violence broke out more than six months ago between the mostly Christian Kuki, who live in mountain areas, and predominantly Hindu Meitei, who dominate the Imphal valley where the state government is based, controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The official death toll now stands at 180 after the first clashes occurred on 3 May. But many sources put the real death toll much higher.
The confrontation has at its root in Meitei's claims to the lands where the Kuki traditionally live. In recent years, close ties between Kuki and Chin people who live just across the border in Myanmar and share to the same ethnic background have also contributed to inflaming spirits.
Although Manipur has been much stricter than neighbouring Mizoram with refugees from Myanmar, which has been rocked by civil war for more than two years now, the Meitei have repeatedly cried "invasion" in a war among the poor in one of India’s most marginalised areas.
Tensions have risen again recently in parallel with the new phase of the war in Myanmar where Chin militias have gone on the offensive against the country’s military, seizing control of some border areas with India.
The repercussions in Manipur were not long in coming. The Imphal Free Press has reported clashes between Meitei groups and the People's Defence Forces (PDF), the Chin militia that is part of the coalition opposed to Myanmar’s military junta.
The Meitei accuse these paramilitary groups of supporting the Kuki in the current armed clashes in Manipur.
The newspaper reported the death on Wednesday of a militant with five others injured in a bomb attack carried by the PDF, as well as an incident involving a Meitei-based armed group reportedly exchanging fire with the PDF at Thanan in Myanmar, around noon.
In a separate incident, a Myanmar man died at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) in Imphal yesterday. After learning of his admission to the hospital, a Meitei mob allegedly broke into the government-run medical facility to attack the man.
Such incidents confirm how explosive the situation remains in Manipur. More than six months after the start of the violence, the only action by the central government has been to shut down the Internet.
Yesterday InternetShutdowns, an Indian website that tracks Internet shutdowns by Indian authorities, reported that in some areas, shutdowns have exceeded 200 days, with the one in Manipur becoming the second longest in India's recent history, second only to the 552 days in Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution.
Over the past few months, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never been to Manipur and has avoided speaking about events in the state for a long time.
The three-member Commission of Inquiry set up by New Delhi in June to collect evidence of the May violence has nothing to show so far. In all these months, it has not yet held a hearing, either in Delhi or in Manipur.
Only this week, it has asked members of the public to submit any “statement, allegation or complaint” in the form of an affidavit in the next 45 days.
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