Violence has erupted in Manipur as tribal groups protest against a court order on Scheduled Tribe status, leading to the imposition of curfew in eight districts and the suspension of mobile internet in the state.
As per media reports, the Meitei community, which makes up over half of Manipur's population and primarily inhabit the Manipur valley, has been demanding a Scheduled tribe status, citing difficulties arising from "large-scale illegal immigration by Myanmarese and Bangladeshis."
However, existing law forbids the Meiteies from settling in the hill areas of the state.
In response to the Meitei community's demand, the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) organised a "Tribal Solidarity March" on Wednesday in the Churachandpur district's Torbung neighbourhood. The rally turned violent, leading to clashes between tribals and non-tribals, and widespread damage to property.
The Indian Army and Assam Rifles have been deployed to control the situation in Manipur. Several shops and houses were vandalized and gutted in arson that lasted for more than three hours in Torbung. The state police, along with the Army and Assam Rifles, managed to control the violence by the morning and conducted flag marches to keep the situation under control. So far, 7,500 people have been rescued from the violence-hit areas, and given shelter, and more people are being shifted to safer places. The Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, urged people to maintain peace and said "Precious lives have been lost, besides damage of properties, which is very unfortunate." He said that additional para-military forces have been requisitioned to protect the lives and properties of the people, and that central and state forces have been directed to take strong action against individuals and groups who are indulging in violence.
The violence has caused concern in neighbouring Mizoram, with its Chief Minister, Zoramthanga, expressing his concern in a letter to the Manipur Chief Minister. "As the Chief Minister of Mizoram, a lifelong neighbour that has much in common with Manipur in terms of history and culture, I am deeply pained by the violence that has flared up in parts of your State and the underlying tension between the Meitei community and the tribals there," he wrote.
Boxing legend Mary Kom, who hails from Manipur, has appealed for help, saying "My state Manipur is burning."
Curfew has been imposed in non-tribal dominated Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, Jiribam, and Bishnupur districts, and tribal-dominated Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, and Tengnoupal districts. Mobile internet services were suspended across the state. In the Imphal valley, houses of Kuki tribals were ransacked in several areas, forcing them to flee, while over 500 residents of the Kuki-dominated Langol area in Imphal West fled their homes and are currently staying at the CRPF camp at Lamphelpat. Some places of worship were also set on fire in the Imphal valley.