INDIA, IMPHAL: The army claimed Sunday that 23,000 people had escaped ethnic violence in northeast India, which had killed at least 54 people. There had been no additional “major violence” overnight.
The disturbance in Manipur state erupted when a tribal group’s protest march prompted skirmishes last week, with vehicles and residences set on fire and officials firing tear gas.
The military has deployed thousands of troops to the Myanmar border state, given “shoot-at-sight” orders in “extreme cases,” imposed curfews, and cut off internet access.
The army claimed on Sunday that no big flare-ups were reported overnight, and that a curfew in Churachandpur district, one of the main flashpoint locations, was removed between 7 and 10 a.m.
“Past 24 hrs also witnessed Army significantly enhancing surveillance efforts through aerial surveillance, movement of UAVs, & redeployment of Army Helicopters within Imphal Valley,” it stated, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
“To date, a total of 23000 civilians have been rescued and relocated to their own operating bases/military garrisons,” according to the statement.
Authorities have not released an official death toll, but hospital morgues in Imphal and Churachandpur have reported a total of 54 deaths, according to local media.
Tribal groups, particularly the Kukis, are outraged at the idea of the state’s majority Meitei people becoming recognized under a “Scheduled Tribe” category.
This designation would provide them with a certain quota of government jobs and college admissions in a form of affirmative action aimed at addressing structural inequality and discrimination. L. Sanglun Simte, 29, a Kuki who has been camping outside the airport in state capital Imphal with 11 family members since Saturday, recounted the horror as violence erupted.
“We ran for our lives. Things are not going well. “They’re just going after us Kukis,” he told AFP.
Siemcha Gangte, Simte’s 49-year-old cousin, was slain by a mob on Thursday, and his house was set on fire, according to Simte.
“The assailants claim we are foreigners who must leave Imphal. The local police did not assist us when they attacked us.”
Simte, who has booked a flight to Agartala, the capital of neighboring Tripura state, has stated that he will only return if security improves.
“We don’t feel safe right now,” he said.
Lalpu Suantak, 45, of the Kuki community who works for a state-owned bank in Imphal, claimed he escaped his residence with 12 family members when some homes and a nearby church were set on fire.
“My house hasn’t been touched yet, but there was fear when a mob burned down one of the houses in our neighborhood,” he told AFP.
In India’s northeast, ethnic and separatist groups seeking greater autonomy or possibly secession from India have caused decades of conflict, with at least 50,000 people killed in Manipur since the 1950s.
These confrontations had subsided throughout time, with several communities reaching agreements with New Delhi for increased influence.