Imphal: On Saturday, Imphal Valley saw a return to cautious normalcy as shops and markets reopened and vehicles started moving on the roads. Security forces, consisting of additional army troops, rapid action force, and central police forces, were clearly visible in major areas and roads. Despite the large deployment of security forces, most shops and markets in Imphal town and other places opened in the morning with people purchasing vegetables and other essential commodities.
However, on Friday night, police reported that five hill-based militants were killed and two India Reserve Battalion jawans were injured in two separate encounters in Churachandpur district. One encounter took place at Saiton in Churachandpur district, resulting in the death of four militants, while the other encounter occurred at Torbung, where one militant was killed, and two IRB jawans were injured in the exchange of fire.
A total of 13,000 people were rescued and shifted to safe shelters, including some in army camps, as the army brought Churachandpur, Moreh, Kakching, and Kangpokpi districts under its control. However, sporadic incidents of arson and attempts to establish blockades were reported in Imphal East and West districts over the past 12 hours. Still, the situation was controlled by a firm and synergized response from the security forces, according to a Defence spokesperson.
Multiple sources reported that the fighting between communities had left several scores of people dead and nearly a hundred injured. However, the police were unwilling to confirm this. The bodies were brought from districts such as Imphal East and West, Churachandpur, and Bishenpur. Many people with bullet injuries are also being treated at RIMS and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences.
The prompt response by Security Forces led to the rescue of civilians of all communities from various minority pockets of areas affected by violence. As a result, Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Moreh, and Kakching are now under firm control with no major violence reported since Friday night. Nearly 10,000 soldiers from the Army and the Assam Rifles have been deployed in the state, which was rocked by clashes since Wednesday between the Meitei community, mainly living in Imphal Valley, and Kuki tribals, who are inhabitants of the hill districts.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the situation in Manipur with Chief Minister N Biren Singh and top officials on Friday. Additionally, the Centre dispatched more security forces and anti-riot vehicles to maintain peace in Manipur. Around 1,000 more central paramilitary personnel with anti-riot vehicles reached Manipur on Friday, and trains to Manipur were canceled with immediate effect due to the prevailing situation in the state, according to a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) spokesperson.
The violence first erupted in the Torbung area in Churachandpur district during the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organized by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) on Wednesday to protest the demand of Meiteis for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. During the march in Torbung, 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.
Meiteis account for about 53 percent of the population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, including Kukis, account for another 40 percent of the population and live mostly in the hill districts surrounding the Valley.