An uneasy calm is prevailing in ethnic violence hit Manipur even as the authorities relaxed the curfew in three districts, including the most volatile Churachandpur district, for three hours on Monday morning while the Army and paramilitary 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 have been killed and over a 100 people have been injured in the series of ethnic violence in different districts of Manipur since May 3.
However, various media outlets 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 six districts since May 3, when widespread violent clashes 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 homes to buy essentials in various markets during curfew relaxation hours.
Transport fuel crisis also put the people in distress while official and banking services were badly affected in most parts of the state.
Kuldeep Singh said that peace meetings by public representatives and community leaders were held in nine places in different districts on Sunday. Such meetings are also being held on Monday in more places across the strife-torn state.
Singh said that 134 arms, looted by the miscreants and agitators, have so far been recovered as the district authorities appealed to the people to return the looted weapons immediately.
As many as 23 police stations in different districts have been identified as most vulnerable and the Army and Central Armed Police Forces are 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 are still suspended across Manipur since last week.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said in a tweet on Monday: “As the situation in Manipur continues to improve and normalcy returns, I’m thankful to Shri Amit Shah Ji for his constant supervision and support to make this feat possible.
“I am in constant touch with the Home Ministry to monitor the situation and to ensure no further violence takes place in the state. The paramilitary 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.”
Over 100 columns of Army and Assam Rifles have been working tirelessly in order to enhance the surveillance capability in Manipur. Employment of aviation assets has also been intensified, a defence release said.
It said drones and Army helicopters have been pressed into action for surveillance, not only in the hinterland but also along the 400 km India-Myanmar Border.
Over 25,000 civilians have been rescued till now who have been moved to the Army operating bases and military garrisons, the sources said.
In the wake of the ongoing unrest in Manipur, over 2,000 men, women and children have crossed the border into Assam’s Cachar district where they have been sheltered in seven government camps. Around 600 people, including women and children, have taken shelter in various districts of Mizoram.
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.