12/07/2023, 18.02
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Violence continues in Manipur, 13 dead in a village

by Nirmala Carvalho

In Leithao, Tengnoupal district, unidentified gunmen killed scores of people, forcing residents to flee to nearby villages. A local community leader calls for security forces to intervene. An official with the opposition Congress party slams the government for failing to act.

Imphal (AsiaNews) – The Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) condemned the central government of India and the northeastern state for failing to act after 13 people, mostly teenagers, were killed by unidentified gunmen earlier this week.

At the start of May, violent interethnic clashes broke out in the state between tribal groups over the designation of certain indigenous communities as scheduled tribes, which would entitle them to quota programmes as part of the government affirmative action for disadvantaged groups.

Since then, the military and law enforcement have been deployed to the state to quell the unrest, but the situation remains tense, locals say.

On Monday, the highest number of deaths in a single day were reported in Leithao, a village in Tengnoupal district.

MPCC leader Keisham Meghachandra condemned the killings, blaming the government for failing to act.

“The government’s failure to tackle the situation is concerning," he said, adding that the “MPCC is disappointed by the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah over the incident."

Prime Minister Modi's ultranationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power at the national level as well as in Manipur in coalition with other parties.

“People want to know how long such violence and killings will continue," Keisham said.

“The PM always shares his concern whenever there is an incident involving loss of lives. But he has not shared anything about Manipur despite hundreds being killed, more than 60,000 displaced and hundreds left homeless," Keisham added.

The Congress leader also appealed to three MPs from Manipur to address the issue of violence in parliament.

The Hindu newspaper, which had access to the list of the dead, said three of the people killed were only 16 years old, their bodies taken for an autopsy to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in the state capital Imphal.

The bereaved families expressed their anger and criticised Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, who had said that peace had been restored in Manipur.

Residents in Leithao fled their homes on Tuesday, while the families of the young people held funerals in Andros, Imphal East district.

In Leithao, the situation had remained relatively peaceful compared to other parts of the state, which is why no security forces (army or paramilitary) had been deployed to the village. The nearest security post is about 10 km away, in Saibol.

“After security forces left on Monday night, all the villagers fled. They are all staying with their relatives in Chehlep and Phalbung, which is also in Tengnoupal,” said Jamkhogin Lupho, Leithao’s village secretary.

“We request security forces to come and guard our villages. The militants will again come to attack us,” he fears.

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