At least one killed in latest ethnic violence in India's Manipur

Thousands of soldiers and riot police sent to north-eastern state

A soldier stands guard during a curfew in Bishnupur during ethnic violence in the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur. AFP
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At least one person has been killed and two injured in the latest outbreak of ethnic violence in Manipur state in north-eastern India.

Dozens have died and thousands have been displaced in weeks of conflict.

Authorities imposed a curfew and shut down internet services to control the violence.

Violence broke out on May 3 between two ethnic groups, the largely Hindu Meiteis and the Kukis, who are mostly Christians, over a contentious government proposal to list the majority Meitei community as a tribe.

The designation offers added benefits including reserved quotas for government jobs.

On Wednesday, suspected militants shot and killed a refugee and injured two others in the town of Bishnupur, police said.

Arson and violence was also reported in the nearby West Imphal district.

“One person received a bullet injury on his right little finger and right thigh,” said Manipur security adviser Kuldeep Singh.

Authorities sent additional forces to control the violence and cancelled plans to relax the curfew.

Police said a mob attacked and vandalised the house of a state minister in West Imphal, with several homes belonging to rival ethnic groups being attacked throughout the district.

A delegation of state legislators from the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party will meet Home Minister Amit Shah in neighbouring Assam’s Guwahati on Thursday.

A burnt vehicle and rubble after violence in Churachandpur, Manipur. AFP

Manipur is a mountainous region bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP.

About 34 ethnic tribes, making up 40 per cent of the population, have traditionally inhabited hilly areas that comprise 90 per cent of the land.

The Meiteis, who form more than half of the population, dominate the valley areas. They are confined to 10 per cent of the state's land.

They have long demanded the community be included in the tribe list to access land rights and job benefits, and match the status of other tribal groups.

But opposing tribes, such as the Kukis, have expressed their opposition, claiming that the Meiteis already dominate the demographic, political and social landscape of the state.

At least 60 people have died and 35,000 people from both groups have been forced to flee villages and seek refuge in army camps after their homes were burnt down.

Meitei refugees wait to be evacuated from Churachandpur, near Imphal, on a military vehicle. AFP

More than a dozen of Manipur's 16 districts are affected by the violence.

Thousands of soldiers and riot police have been sent to the state.

Tribal leaders from the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum have demanded a “total separation from Manipur”.

The leaders have written a letter to the state government saying that the community sees “no prospect of living together” with the Meiteis.

“As it is evident and clear that the Meitei community with the help of the state government machineries has unleashed ethnic cleansing or genocide … it is proven that Meiteis hate us and we see no prospect of living together,” it wrote.

Updated: May 25, 2023, 10:58 AM