India government orders Manipur to restore peace amidst ongoing ethnic violence

The Indian federal government ordered the Chief Minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh to restore peace amidst ongoing ethnic violence which has continued for close to 50 days, despite a heavy security presence in the state. Singh said that Union Home Minister of India “Amit Shah Ji advised us to strengthen our work towards achieving everlasting peace.”

The violent clashes erupted on May 3 in response to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s plans to give protected status to Meitei community as scheduled tribes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the BJP of “playing divisive politics” by providing the Hindu Meitei community with favorable treatment over the Christian-dominated Kuki community. HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said, “The violence in Manipur state since early May has left communities devastated, and it’s crucial for the government to restore order in a rights-respecting manner and hold to account those responsible for abuses.”

Since then, violence has continued to spread throughout the state. Most recently, there was a car bomb explosion under a bridge, which resulted in minor injuries to three nearby boys. Originally the Manipur Police launched an investigation into the incident, however on Saturday the police announced the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was taking over the case. So far, the authorities strongly suspect the involvement of the insurgents belonging to the ethnic communities in conflict.

There have also been incidents wherein women protesters and vigilante groups block roads used by security forces to prevent their movement. According to The Hindu, since May 30, women-led vigilante groups have blocked roads in the southern portion of Manipur, making the area inaccessible to security forces.

In one such standoff between protesters and security forces, the army blocked off different areas to confine and arrest them. The standoff lasted through Saturday, with the arming releasing 12 protesters, who were mostly women. During their meeting Sunday, Shah expressed “a strong concern on the visible lawlessness witnessed” during the standoff.

While there have been no reported casualties since June 13, there have been 105 casualties and over 320 injuries reported since May 3. Additionally, over 50,650 men, women and children have been displaced as a result of the conflict.