Indians escorted back home in riot stricken

Arief Budi
Arief Budi

Global Courant 2023-05-09 04:20:00

NEW DELHI — Thousands of people who fled deadly riots and ethnic clashes in northeastern India last week are returning home, escorted by security personnel, officials said Monday.

Fierce fighting broke out in the state of Manipur, bordering Myanmar, as members of about 30 tribal groups clashed with a non-tribal group, the Meitei ethnic majority, over the economic benefits and reservation status granted to some tribes.

“We are trying to get villagers to return to their homes as opposing party leaders started peace talks today,” said Lorho S. Pfoze, a state MP.

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“The situation is extremely tense and the victims are afraid to return to their villages, fearing that clashes could break out again.”

Civilians were taken home after completion of combing operations near the border areas, an Indian army officer said on condition of anonymity. A dawn-to-dusk curfew will remain in effect this week, he added.

Police in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, said 62 people were killed in the fighting that had raged in the hills and some parts of the valley, but there was no violence over the weekend.

Three politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the death toll was around 70.

Manipur Prime Minister N. Biren Singh told a press briefing late Monday that about 230 people were injured, 35,000 displaced and about 1,700 houses were set on fire by protesters.

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“The situation is slowly limping back to normal … We will order a high-level probe to investigate the violent clashes,” he said.

Human rights groups in Imphal said tensions began to rise last month after Manipur’s Supreme Court asked the government to consider the Meitei community’s request to be granted constitutionally defined status as a scheduled tribe.

The existing recognized tribes resisted the request.

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“The tribal and non-tribal groups have a history of jealousy over the distribution of economic resources and opportunities, but this time their anger just couldn’t be contained,” said one of the participants in the peace talks, Khuraijam Athouba.

India is reserving a number of government jobs, university places and elected seats – from village councils to parliament – for those categorized as scheduled tribes, in a form of affirmative action to address historic structural inequality and discrimination.

“We are urging both sides to really put an end to the violence or they will have to live under strict curfew for months on end,” said Mr Ahouba, a member of Manipur’s Integrity Coordinating Committee. REUTERS

Indians escorted back home in riot stricken

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