An uneasy calm prevailed in ethnic violence-battered Manipur even as the authorities relaxed the curfew in three districts including most volatile Churachandpur district for three hours on Monday morning while the Army and central para-military forces continued their vigil in the strife-torn areas.
Newly-appointed security advisor to Manipur government Kuldiep Singh, a former CRPF chief, said that at least 37 people were killed and over a 100 people injured in the series of ethnic violence in different districts of Manipur since May 3.
However, various media reports, quoting hospital sources said that at least 50 to 55 people, including women, have been killed in the attacks and counter attacks by the rival ethnic groups in at least six districts since May 3, when widespread violent clashes, attacks and arson broke out across Manipur during a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST category.
Officials said that the authorities relaxed the curfew in three districts – Churachandpur, Juribam and Inphal West – on Monday morning.
People, in large numbers, came out of their houses to buy essentials in various markets during curfew relaxation hours.
However, a transport fuel crisis also put the people in distress while official and banking functions were badly affected in most parts of the northeastern states.
Kuldiep Singh said that peace meetings by the public representatives and community leaders were held in nine places in different districts on Sunday and such meetings are being held on Monday in more places across the strife-torn state.
He said that 134 arms, looted by the miscreants and agitators, have so far returned and the district authorities appealed to the people to return the looted arms immediately.
Singh said that 23 police stations in different districts have been identified as most vulnerable and the Army and Central Armed Police Forces were adequately deployed in these areas.
Flag marches by the Army and Assam Rifles are continuing in over six districts, especially in the most volatile Churachandpur district, Singh added.
Mobile internet services were still suspended since last week across Manipur.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh in a tweet on Monday said : “As the situation in Manipur continues to improve and normalcy returns, I’m thankful to the Shri Amit Shah Ji for his constant supervision and support to make this feat possible. I have been constantly in touch with HMO India to monitor the situation and ensure no further violence is taking place in the State. The para military and state forces have been doing an exemplary job in controlling the violence and bringing the state back to normalcy. I also appreciate the people of the state for their cooperation….”
Defence sources said that the Army and Assam Rifles columns are working tirelessly since May 3 to provide security and rescue civilians across all communities, curb violence and restore normalcy.
Meanwhile, employment of aviation assets is being intensified for surveillance, a defence release said. It said Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) and Army helicopters have been pressed into action for surveillance not only in hinterland but also along around 400 km-long India-Myanmar border.
Use of the third dimension is of utmost importance in modern military warfare, the defence release said, adding that it gives the security forces a major edge to not only carry out effective surveillance of anti-national elements but also target elements that may harm important installations.
The release said that employment of these assets are giving a major fillip to the effectiveness of Army and Assam Rifles, success of which is evident on ground in Manipur not only in hinterland but also for domination of India-Myanmar border to prevent any misadventure attempt by Manipur Valley-based insurgent groups staying across in various camps.
Over 25,000 civilians have been rescued till now and were moved to Army bases and military garrisons, the sources said.
In the wake of the ongoing unrest in Manipur, over 2,000 men, women and children had crossed the border into Assam’s Cachar district and sheltered in seven government sponsored camps and around 600 people, including women and children took shelter in various Mizoram districts.
In view of the prevailing unrest in Manipur, the Central government has already imposed Article 355 in the state to bring the situation under control.
Article 355 is part of emergency provisions contained in the Constitution that empowers the Centre to take all necessary steps to protect a state against internal disturbances or external aggression.
Meanwhile, various influential organisations, including All Manipur Christian Organisation, and Global Naga Forum, while saying that they would cooperate with the government to restore normalcy, urged the people to maintain peace and ethnic harmony.
Manipur Chief Minister once again urged the people to shun the path of violence.”I appeal to everyone in Manipur to restrain from any form of violence. The state police and the para military have been given strict instructions to take action against those who create disturbances in the law and order of the state,” he tweeted. IANS