The death toll in the ethnic violence which has engulfed Manipur increased to 54 including women, officials said even as unofficial sources placed the figure at several scores dead and more than 150 injured.
Of the 54 officially declared dead, 16 bodies were kept in the morgue of the Churachandpur district hospital while 15 bodies were in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal East district, officials said. The Regional Institute of Medical Sciences at Lamphel in Imphal West district reported 23 dead, the official said.
“Over 100 people have been injured in these attacks. More than 500 houses, along with a large number of vehicles, shops and other properties were either burnt down or damaged in these attacks since May 3,” Manipur government’s newly-appointed security advisor Kuldiep Singh, a former CRPF chief, told the media in Imphal on Saturday.
A Defence spokesperson told PTI that a total of 13,000 people were rescued and shifted to safe shelters, some in army camps as the army brought Churachandpur, Moreh, Kakching and Kangpokpi districts under its “firm control”.
Life returned to a wary normalcy in Imphal Valley on Saturday as shops and markets reopened and cars started plying on the roads.
Security presence which has been bolstered by flying in more army troops and central police forces, was clearly visible at all major roads and areas. Roadblocks and cordons have been set up in areas where militant groups had engaged security forces on Friday.
Large number of people including students were seen assembled at Imphal airport to try get a flight out of the troubled state.
Nearly 10,000 army, para-military and central police forces have been deployed in the state.
Demand for PR gains traction: A public petition has been raised on Change.org demanding President’s rule in Manipur which has seen mobs going on a rampage in clashes between Kuki tribe and Meitei community. The petition has so far garnered more than 46,000 signatures of who appear to be local citizens and the count is increasing.
The public petition started by Sarvodaya Sangam states, “we appeal to the President of India to ensure peace in the state. She belongs to the indigenous tribal community, and we expect her to empathize with the vulnerable communities of the state
The public petition also appeals for peace on both warring communities and wishes to spread the message of peace and to sit across the table and talk.
According to reports, four people were shot dead in Churachandpur when security forces were carrying out evacuation of Meiteis in the area. Meanwhile, the Indian Revenue Service Association said a tax assistant identified as Letminthang Haokip had been killed in Imphal. “No cause or ideology can justify the killing of an innocent public servant on duty,” the association tweeted.
Muan Hansingh (24), a researcher and resident of Churachandpur, told The Indian Express that unrest in the town began around 7 pm Friday.
“Because of the deployment of security personnel, people are not moving out of their homes. Around 7 pm, we got information that Meitei people stranded in the town are going to be evacuated by security personnel. The people (opposed to this evacuation) gathered at the town’s main road, Tidim Road to barricade it. We put women at the front of the barricade because we thought that they would not be fired at. But the security opened fire and four people died,” he alleged.
An Assam Rifles official in Imphal said he had received inputs that a gathering of “80-200” people had taken place and that four people died in the firing.
“Evacuation of people from different parts of the state is constantly going on,” he said, adding that the blockading of roads continues to be common in different parts of the state.
A senior official from the central security forces also confirmed four people had died, while a senior police official from the district put the number at three.
This shooting in Churachandpur comes after days of fierce clashes between the state’s majority Meitei community and the Kuki tribe, which had also originated in the area on Wednesday.
A CRPF CoBRA commando identified as Chonkholen Haokip, who was on leave, was also shot dead on Friday when he tried to stop men setting a village on fire.
Const Chonkholen Haokip of the delta company of the 204th CoBRA battalion was killed around 2-3 pm, officials said.
The circumstances in which he was killed are not clear, but it is understood that some assailants donning police-like fatigue entered his village and killed him, senior officials told PTI.
Drones, Army choppers pressed into service:
IANS: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Army helicopters have been pressed into service for aerial surveillance in ethnic violence-hit Manipur, while the Army, Assam Rifles, and other Central paramilitary forces are on round-the-clock vigil in the trouble-torn districts.
Defence sources said that multiple rounds of aerial surveillance using Cheetah helicopters have already been conducted by the Army since Saturday morning in different parts of Manipur.
“The ongoing crisis in Manipur may create a new security dimension as insurgent groups staying in camps along the India-Myanmar border may prove detrimental to the massive efforts to restore normalcy in the state,” said a source.
The issue is being addressed pro-actively by the security forces who are leaving no stone unturned to thwart the nefarious designs, the source said.