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Manipur: Centre Rushes 20 Companies Of CRPF & BSF To Contain Violence, 'Shoot At Sight' Orders In Place

Internet services, including mobile internet, have been suspended for five days across Manipur. The violence between majority Meiteis and tribals has displaced over 9,000 people from both communities.

Indian Army and Assam Rifles personnel rescue civilians from violence-hit areas in Manipur.
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The Manipur government on Thursday issued shoot-at-sight orders to contain the widespread violence in the state. 

Manipur is currently in the grips of violence between tribals and the majority Meitei community. Over 9,000 people have been displaced from their villages.

Fifty-five columns of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles have been deployed in Manipur to contain widespread rioting. Additionally, about 20 companies of central armed police forces (CAPFs) have been deployed in the state and top officers have been posted to coordinate the deployment of forces. 

Army troops deployed to control situation in Manipur

Fifty-five columns of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles have been deployed in Manipur to contain widespread rioting. More troops are being brought in from Nagaland by road while the Indian Air Force (IAF) is flying in reinforcements from Guwahati and Tezpur, defence officials indicated.

Indian Army in a official statement said that the the situation has been brought under control through coordinated actions by all stakeholders. It said that IAF undertook continuous sorties from two airfields in Assam employing C17 Globemaster and AN 32 aircraft.

Induction commenced on the night of May 4 and additional columns commenced domination with effect from wee hours of May 5, said to the statement, adding that domination and evacuation of civilians of all communities from affected areas continued throughout the night. 

Senior CRPF officers dispatched to Manipur

At least five Deputy Inspector General (DIG)-rank officers and seven senior superintendent of police (SSP)- and SP-rank officers of the CRPF have been tasked to coordinate deployment of various security forces in violence-hit Manipur, official sources said.

The Centre has rushed in about 20 fresh companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) to Manipur. The induction of the CAPF units apart from that of the Army columns and the Assam Rifles is going on. 

For this task, a total of five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) DIG rank officers and seven other commanders in the rank of Commandant (SSP rank) and second-in-command (SP rank) have been placed at the disposal of the Additional Director General (ADG) of the north east zone of the CRPF based in Guwahati and the Inspector General of the Manipur and Nagaland located in Imphal, a senior officer told PTI.

Some of these senior officers are being rushed in from Delhi and Ranchi, he said.

A DIG of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the communication wing of the CRPF have also been sent to Manipur to specifically oversee the deployment of the anti-riot units, the officer said.

The deputy inspectors general (DIG) will be functioning at the existing CRPF stations in Manipur at Churachandpur, Imphal East and Imphal West while the Commandants will be based at Bishnupur, Kangpokpi and Tamenglong.

They will coordinate and work in tandem with the state police, administration authorities and the newly-appointed security advisor Kuldiep Singh, who retired as the director general of the CRPF and NIA. Singh is a 1986-batch IPS officer from the West Bengal cadre.

Fifteen fresh CAPF companies have been airlifted through IAF planes to Imphal while few more have been asked to be in readiness, an another officer said.

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Gunfights have been reported between security forces and hill-based militants in various parts of the state, they said.

An official said members of the Kuki community have appealed to the state government machinery to ensure that CAPF and Army units are immediately sent to villages as many locals have taken shelter in nearby jungles after their houses were burnt.

The violence between majority Meiteis and tribals over demand of the former for ST status has displaced over 9,000 people from both communities.

The Union government is keeping a watch on the situation. Home Minister Amit Shah has held multiple rounds of talks with Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and the CMs of neighbouring Northeastern states. Reports also say that the Centre has put into force emergency powers under Article 355 of the Constitution of India to tackle the situation. 

Urging people to maintain peace, Manipur CM Singh said, "Precious lives have been lost, besides damage of properties, which is very unfortunate." 

Singh, however, did not any details of the number of dead or injured. Multiple sources said the fighting between communities had left more than a score of people dead and several scores more injured. However, the police were unwilling to confirm this.

How things stand in Manipur?

Internet services including mobile internet, have been suspended for five days across Manipur with immediate effect to prevent disturbance of peace and public order, a Home department order said on Thursday.

The 'shoot at sight' order issued by the Governor of the northeastern state said all magistrates could issue the order when all options of persuasion, warning and reasonable force "have been exhausted and the situation could not be controlled".

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A defence spokesperson said, "The situation in Moreh and Kangpokpi has been brought under control and is stable. All efforts are underway to restore normalcy in Imphal and Churachandpur."

The Army also kept some 14 columns on standby for deployment in case the situation flared up once again, the defence spokesperson had said earlier in the day.

Sources said more than 6,000 soldiers had already been deployed to stop rioters from attacking people, however the number could not be officially verified.

Besides Army and Assam Rifles, the Centre also air-lifted teams of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), a specialised riot-management force, for deployment in violence-hit areas of Manipur.

The Army and Assam Rifles staged flag marches in Khuga, Tampa, Khomaujanbba areas of Churachandpur. Flag marches were also carried out in Mantripukhri, Lamphel, Koeirangi area of Imphal Valley, and Sugnu in Kakching district on Thursday, the defence spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said of the more than 9,000 people rescued, some 5,000 people have been shifted to safe homes in Churachandpur, while 2,000 people each were similarly evacuated in Imphal Valley and the border town of Moreh in Tengnoupal district.

The Manipur government also appointed retired IPS officer and former CRPF chief Kuldiep Singh as its security advisor, they added.

Violence reported across Manipur

Curfew has been imposed in Meitei-majority Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, Jiribam, and Bishnupur districts, and tribal-dominated Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, and Tengnoupal districts.

In the Imphal valley, houses of Kuki tribals were ransacked in several areas, forcing them to flee, police said.

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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, police said.

Some places of worship were also set on fire in the Imphal valley Wednesday night, they said.

Meanwhile, around 1,000 Meiteis of the tribal-dominated Churachandpur district fled to various areas of Bishnupur district, including Kwakta and Moirang, they said.

Over twenty houses were also burnt in Motbung area of Kangpokpi district.

Violence was also reported from Moreh near the Myanmar border in Tengnoupal district.

Lawmakers of the valley have earlier openly endorsed the demand by some Meitei organisations for ST status, alarming communities who figure in the Scheduled Tribe list.

The Meiteis inhabit the valley, which accounts for about a tenth of the former princely state's land area. They claim they are facing problems because of "large-scale illegal immigration by Myanmarese and Bangladeshis".

The hill districts which account for much of the state's land are inhabited mostly by tribals -- including the Nagas and Kukis who are mainly Christians -- and are protected from encroachment by various laws.

Centre keeping a watch on Manipur

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday held meetings with top functionaries of Manipur and central governments through video conference to review the situation there besides talking to Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, as well as with chief ministers Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), Zoramthanga (Mizoram) and Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam), sources said.

Reports said that the Centre has used emergency powers under Article 355 of the Constitution to tackle the Manipur violence.

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"The Centre on Thursday promulgated Article 355 in Manipur to take charge of the security after a spate of arson and violence in the hills and valley areas following Wednesday’s Tribal Solidarity March," reported The Print.

Article 355 says, "It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the Government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution."

How violence began in Manipur?

Clashes broke out on Wednesday which intensified overnight after Naga and Kuki tribals organised a 'Tribal Solidarity March' to protest moves to give scheduled tribe status to the majority Metei community.

The 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) in the 10 hill districts of the state on Wednesday to protest the demand of non-tribal Meiteis, who account for 53 per cent of the state's population, for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The march was organised by tribals who account for about 40 per cent of the state’s population after the Manipur High Court asked the state government last month to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status by the Metei community.

During the march in Torbung area of Churachandpur district, an armed mob allegedly attacked people of the Meitei community, leading to retaliatory attacks in the valley districts, which escalated the violence throughout the state, police said.

Many shops and houses were vandalised, and gutted in arson that lasted for more than three hours in Torbung, they said.

Manipur chief minister Singh said the violence was the result of "misunderstanding" in the society.

"The state government is taking all steps to maintain the law and order situation and additional para-military forces have been requisitioned to protect the lives and properties of the people," he said.

"Central and state forces have been directed to take strong action against individuals and groups who are indulging in violence," he said.

The Chief Minister of neighbouring Mizoram, Zoramthanga, wrote to Singh, expressing concern over the violence.

"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 in the letter.

Singh said he spoke to Zoramthanga on the phone and apprised him of the present situation.

The neighbouring Nagaland government said it is keeping a close watch on the prevailing law and order situation in Manipur and has opened a helpline for the citizens of the state requiring evacuation from Manipur.

"A close watch is being maintained on the prevailing law and order situation in Manipur and the safety and security of people from Nagaland presently in Manipur and Imphal City," a Nagaland Home Department press release said here.

Meanwhile, at least six persons injured in clashes in Imphal have reached Kohima and are undergoing treatment in different hospitals, Nagaland Home Commissioner Abhijit Sinha said.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma too directed state government officials to evacuate students of the state studying in various educational institutions in violence-hit Manipur. Over 200 Meghalaya students are studying in Manipur, an official said and plans are afoot to airlift them, the official said.

The Meghalaya government is also putting in place a helpline number for students studying in Manipur or their family members to reach out to in case of emergencies.

Reacting to the violence, the principal opposition party Congress on Thursday alleged "Manipur is burning" as the BJP has created fissures among communities with its "politics of hate".

The party’s chief Rahul Gandhi called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to focus on restoring peace and normalcy in the state.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge appealed to the people of Manipur to exercise restraint and let peace prevail.

"Manipur is burning. BJP has created fissures among communities and destroyed the peace of a beautiful state," Kharge said on Twitter.

In another tweet, Gandhi said he was deeply concerned about Manipur’s rapidly deteriorating law and order situation.

"The Prime Minister must focus on restoring peace and normalcy. I urge the people of Manipur to stay calm," he said.

(With PTI inputs)

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