Meiteis, Kukis keep moving to safer areas as tensions persist in Manipur | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Meiteis, Kukis keep moving to safer areas as tensions persist in Manipur

By, Kolkata
May 23, 2023 05:01 AM IST

Since May 3 violence, 7,472 Meiteis have migrated from hill districts to the Imphal valley, while 5,200 Kukis have left Imphal and surrounding areas.

The spate of ethnic violence that has so far claimed 73 lives and left thousands homeless in Manipur has also triggered an exodus in the small state of 3.6 million people, stakeholders aware of the situation told HT on Monday.

Army personnel and Assam Rifles check a vehicle on NH-37 in violence-hit Manipur. (Indian Army)
Army personnel and Assam Rifles check a vehicle on NH-37 in violence-hit Manipur. (Indian Army)

They said a sizeable number of people from the Kuki tribe are abandoning their homes in the valley regions while members of the Meitei community are leaving the hills.

Also Read: Army deployed as fresh violence erupts in Manipur, houses set on fire in Imphal

As many as 7472 Meiteis have migrated from the hill districts to the Imphal valley while 5200 Kukis have left Imphal and surrounding areas since the violence erupted on May 3, according to the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an organisation working with the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to restore peace.

Letzamang Haokip, the BJP MLA from Henglep in Churachandpur district, where the first incident of arson took place on May 3, told HT that thousands of Kukis are returning to the hills.

In Manipur, the affluent Meitei community, which predominantly comprises Hindu Vaishnavs, accounts for 53% of the population against 44% represented by 33 tribes , including Kukis and Nagas.

Also Read: Ex-MLA among 3 held for fresh round of Manipur violence, says CM Biren Singh

Of Manipur’s nine districts, five are located in the hill areas where the tribes live and primarily earn their livelihood by pursuing traditional jhum (slash and burn) cultivation. Most of the Meiteis live in the four districts spread out in the valleys. The demographic segregation is getting sharper with people who left their traditional home grounds over the years returning in search of safety.

“This is happening every day,” said Haokip, who, along with nine other tribal legislators want a separate administration for the hills under the Constitution, a demand rejected by chief minister N Biren Singh on May 15 after his meeting with union home minister Amit Shah.

“Reports of clashes are coming in every day from the periphery of the hills,” COCOMI spokesperson Khuraijam Athouba said.

Also Read: Manipur extends internet ban to curb spread of hate speech

“We held a meeting with Kuldeep Singh, security adviser to the state government, and central government officials on May 18 to review the situation,” Athouba added.

The violence erupted at Churachandpur district on May 3 when Kukis took part in a solidarity march called by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) in protest against an April 19 Manipur high court order directing the state government to consider giving Centre Scheduled Caste (ST) reservation to the Meitei community. After the rally ended, a mob allegedly set fire to the Anglo-Kuki War Memorial gate.

A series of arson and killings paralysed life at Bishnupur, Jiribam, Thoubal, Kakching and Tengnoupal districts in quick succession, forcing the government to deploy the army, impose state-wide curfew and suspend all internet services. Though the duration of curfew has been relaxed in some areas, the ban on internet continues across Manipur.

Manipur state Congress president K Meghachandra said: “The violence is continuing. Some shops owned by Kukis were torched at New Chekon in the heart of Imphal city today. Yesterday, a few houses belonging to Meiteis were burnt down at Churachandpur by Kukis. Common people are scared. Many of those who took shelter in relief camps are leaving because there is shortage of essential items such as baby food. I can’t understand why the Centre is silent.”

According to studies done by COCOMI, 1310 people have left their homes in Churachandpur district, more than 3000 have left Tengnoupal district’s Moreh town at the India-Myanmar border and 260 have left Chandel district.

“The government is trying its best to restore normalcy. The disturbance is being created only by some armed groups,” a Manipur police officer said on condition of anonymity.

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