Union Home Minister Amit Shah who is on a mission to restore peace in strife-torn Manipur, will hold a series of meetings with political and civil society leaders from both the Meitei and Kuki communities and visit Churachandpur, the site of some of the worst rioting earlier this month, on Tuesday.
Shah, who flew in to Imphal last night accompanied by home secretary, had held a meeting with chief minister N Biren Singh, as well some of his cabinet colleague, intelligence and security officials on Monday late night to take stock of the situation.
The meeting, sources said, decided on a series of relief measures as well as steps to augment supplies in this north-eastern state to cool down prices of essential commodities which have soared since ethnic violence began earlier this month. Sources said Kuki leaders and MLAs, many of whom had left for neighbouring states, may be flown in for talks with him. Kukis have been demanding a separate administration for districts they live in, failing which they have also asked for President’s rule being imposed on the state.
Manipur, afflicted by ethnic conflict for nearly a month witnessed a sudden spurt in clashes and firing between militants and security forces on Sunday, after a relative lull for several weeks.
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The death toll from clashes since ethnic rioting began on May 3 has gone up to 80 according to officials.
Army and paramilitary personnel have been conducting combing operations in the Imphal valley and surrounding districts, an official said. The Army operation is aimed at confiscating illegal caches of arms, he said.
Ethnic clashes, first broke out in Manipur after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The violence was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals Nagas and Kukis constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
Around 140 columns of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles, comprising over 10,000 personnel, besides those from other paramilitary forces, had to be deployed to bring back normalcy in the northeastern state.