In Manipur, sporadic incidents of violence have broken out again since May 3, between the majority ethnic Meitei and minority Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi-Hmar community. According to reports the violence in the state has left 98 people dead and over 300 injured.

As many as 37,450 displaced people are taking shelter in 272 relief camps, according to news reports citing Manipur’s Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).

The Manipur government has ordered an extension of restrictions on internet services and broadband in place until May 31. The internet was switched off in the state for 30 days after ethnic clashes first erupted. This was done in order to stop rumours and misinformation being spread as it could result in a spiral of retaliatory violence.

On Friday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, on the last day of his four-day visit to Manipur announced that a judicial commission will be set up under the chairmanship of a retired Indian Chief Justice of the High Court to investigate the Manipur violence. He added that a peace committee would also be constituted under the chairmanship of Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey, in which representatives of all sections would be included.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that the Centre is committed to bring peace in Manipur. Addressing a press conference in Imphal on Friday Shah said, a committee headed by a retired judge of the high court will be formed to probe the incidents of violence in the state.

The Home Minister said that a special Direct Benefit Transfer (CBT) team will also investigate cases of violence in the State. Shah said several agencies are working in Manipur to investigate incidents of violence.

He assured the people of Manipur that the investigations will be carried out without any bias and discrimination and the guilty will be punished. He also announced that a compensation of 10 lakh rupees will be provided to the kin of those killed in the violence. This amount will be transferred to the victims through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

He said the Central government has provided eight teams of medical experts, including 20 doctors to Manipur to provide aid to victims of violence in the state.

At least five teams have already reached the state, and three others are on the way. The Union Home Minister said that those carrying weapons must surrender before the police. He said that “combing operations will start on Saturday and if weapons are found with anyone, strict actions will be taken”.

"After Union Home Minister Amit Shah's appeal, 140 weapons have been surrendered at different places in Manipur," Manipur Police was quoted by news reports.

Over 32 houses of Natyang (Kuki) village under Kasom Khullen Sub-Division, Kamjong district were burned down to ashes on Thursday morning at around 6:30 a.m. The village was torched reportedly by unknown miscreants carrying sophisticated weapons in civilian clothes.

Of the 32 houses torched included Natyang village Church office, Anganwadi Centre, Upper Primary School, Office of Village Authority among others, according to the local media reports.

Another Kuki village, N Mollen under Kangpokpi district, was also torched around the same time. The village is in close proximity with Natyang village, just around four km away, and almost all the houses were reportedly burnt to ashes in N Mollen village.

The incident in N Mollen village claimed two casualties, a man and woman on Thursday morning, while two others sustained injury. One of the injured sustained bullet injuries on the leg.

Kasom Police Station, under Kamjong district has lodged a suo moto First Information Report (FIR) over the incident. The bodies of the two are kept in the morgue.

Natyang and N Mollen villagers are reportedly taking refuge in Churachandpur while some managed to flee to Tengnoupal town, between Imphal and Moreh at the end of northwestern Myanmar; the ASEAN Highway passes through the village.

Around 40 cadres of a tribal militant outfit, including its ‘commander-in-chief’, laid down their arms before the security forces in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district on Friday, a top Assam police official told the media.

“They gave up a large cache of arms and ammunition, including sophisticated guns and grenades, at the surrender ceremony at Bokakhat police station premises”, he said.

“A total of 39 cadres of the Adivasi People’s Liberation Army (APLA) surrendered today. This has been possible due to the joint efforts of the Assam Police and Assam Rifles,” Inspector General of Police (IGP), central range, Devojyoti Mukherjee said.

The surrendered militants handed over 31 weapons, including three AK series rifles, 19 pistols, five other rifles, two grenades and assorted live ammunition, another official said.

One of the most worrying trends was the looting of arms and ammunition from the security forces, miscreants, including suspected members of extremist groups, snatched a total of 1,041 weapons and 7,460 rounds of ammunition.

Out of it, 423 firearms and 6,697 rounds of ammunition have been recovered till May 15. A total of 339 cases have been registered.

The maximum brunt of the violence has been borne by the Meiteis in Kuki-dominated Churachandpur, Tengnoupal, and Kangpokpi districts, whereas the Kukis were the main victims in Meitei-majority Imphal Valley and its peripheries.

The relative calm since May 12 can be attributed to the arrival of personnel of the Army, the Assam Rifles, and the Rapid Action Force (RAF), apart from the state police. The Army also deployed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in sensitive areas.

The members of the Meitei community, who account for 60 per cent of the state’s population, are largely concentrated in the Imphal Valley. They are Vaishnavite Hindus. However, there has been a demand for over a decade to include the Meiteis in the list of STs to protect their indigenous culture, identity and land.

The community claims that despite being Manipur’s indigenous population, its members face difficulties due to large-scale illegal immigration from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The Meiteis are not allowed to settle in the state’s hilly areas, which are reserved for the tribal people, predominantly of Naga and Kuki ethnicity. The tribal hill districts of Manipur enjoy special protection under Article 371C of the Constitution, which says that all laws affecting the districts must be vetted by the hill areas committee of the Manipur Legislative Assembly.

An Assam Rifles soldier was injured while trying to defuse a locally-made Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Manipur’s Bishnupur district. The use of IEDs in communal or ethnic clashes is a novelty. A policeman was killed during firing by suspected Kuki militants.

Amit Shah said that during his stay in Manipur, he met people from all the sections, visited temporary relief camps, and interacted with delegations and victims in Imphal, Moreh, Churachandpur and Kangpokpi.

Shah said that he also held a meeting with state cabinet ministers and women’s organisations. Apart from this, Shah held meetings with about 22 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) of the Meitei community and about 25 CSOs of the Kuki community.

He also discussed measures to restore peace with intellectuals, professors, retired officers and people from every section of the society during the past two days. He said that discussions were also held with 11 political parties.

Additionally, discussions were held with sportspersons and elected representatives of all parties. The involvement of Kuki insurgents in the violence directed against the Meiteis is under thorough scrutiny.

According to state security advisor Kuldeep Singh, a verification drive was on at all 14 camps designated for insurgents involved in the Suspension of Operation (SoO) tripartite agreement to ascertain if the number of members who are supposed to be there were actually at the camp or had sneaked out.

Manipur Director General of Police P. Doungel has been removed amid ethnic clashes in the state that have continued. He will be replaced by senior Indian Police Service officer Rajiv Singh who was posted as the Inspector General of the CRPF. Doungel will now serve as Officer on Special Duty (Home), a new post created by the Manipur government.

Soon after the violence broke out in the state on May 3, the central government appointed former chief of the CRPF Kuldiep Singh as a security adviser to the Manipur government.

Manipur, which has been hit 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 over a fortnight. The death toll from clashes since ethnic violence began on May 3, has gone up to almost 100, officials said.

Ethnic violence 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.

Former Chief Minister of Manipur, O. Ibobi Singh on Friday said that the Centre’s intervention to violence in Manipur was too late. The senior Congress leader said the violence erupted on May 3, and even as it takes only two hours to reach Imphal from New Delhi by any charter flight, the Union Home Minister came to Imphal after 27 days since the violence unfolded.

Ibobi asked the reason for the delay in his visit to intervene to end the crisis. Even though his visit was too late, the Congress party welcomed his visit and the initiative to bring back normalcy in the state.

The Manipur government’s complete internet blackout has severely hindered information gathering and reporting by the media and civil society groups. The Editors Guild of Manipur and All Manipur Working Journalists Union called on the government to restore internet services.

Indian authorities should immediately and impartially investigate ongoing killings by ethnic groups and security forces in India’s northeastern Manipur state and work with community leaders to restore security, Human Rights Watch 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,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Accounts of partisan involvement by security forces in the killings has increased distrust of the authorities, who should work with community leaders to end the violence.

“In a number of situations, we see the consequences when different groups incite and stoke hatred and division between communities. The recent violence in Manipur, Northeast India, revealed the underlying tensions between different ethnic and indigenous groups.

“I urge the authorities to respond to the situation quickly, including by investigating and addressing root causes of the violence in line with their international human rights obligations” according to the statement issued by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk as he marked 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN initiative ‘Human Rights 75’.

Manipur is a hilly state bordering Myanmar, which hosts ethnically diverse groups of Sino-Tibetan communities with unique languages, religions, and cultures. The Central government incorporated Manipur state in 1949, which created dissatisfaction among its residents, who felt the change was rushed and did not include proper consensus.

This move has resulted in a history of insurgencies and deep-rooted ethnic tensions in the state, particularly between those who live in the hilly areas and those living in the valley, with religious differences sometimes aggravating an already tense relationship.

As the ongoing conflict continues to simmer in India’s northeastern Manipur state, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) who are seeking shelter in nine (9) districts of the neighbouring state Mizoram crosses 8,000-mark as more ethnic tribals arrived following the ethnic clash between Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi-Hmar communities and the majority Meiteis.

In a benevolent gesture, Mizoram Government has so far despatched 2,156 quintals of food grains to scarcity of ration-hit Manipur's Lamka town in Churachandpur district. Mizoram shares a 95-km long border with riot-hit Manipur.

Jon Suante is a freelance journalist.