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One Year After Manipur Tragedy : Toll Stands at 226 Dead, 1,500 Injured, 60,000 Displaced

On Friday, various groups in Manipur will commemorate one year of ethnic conflict in the state. The conflict began on May 3, last year, with at least 52 deaths in three days. Over the past year, more than 1,500 people have been injured, around 60,000 people displaced within the state, and at least 13,247 structures have been gutted or destroyed. At least 28 people are missing or presumed kidnapped or murdered.

During the first week of the conflict, a mass “exchange of population” was carried out by security forces, with Meiteis living in Kuki-Zomi majority areas being transported to the Meitei-majority valley. Kuki-Zomis in Imphal and other Meitei-majority areas were taken to Churachandpur and Kangpokpi, while many also fled the state to neighbouring Mizoram or elsewhere in the country. However, some people still remained, such as 24 Kuki-Zomis living in New Lambulane and around 400 Meiteis from the border town Moreh seeking shelter in neighboring Myanmar. These “people who stayed back” have since been moved to areas where their community is in majority.

The predominant sites of the continuing conflict are “foothill” areas where Meitei-majority valley regions meet Kuki-Zomi majority hill areas. A senior police officer told The Indian Express that the level of violence has come down and the spread has come down too. However, since April 13, there has been another spate of violent incidents, with the killing and mutilation of two men in Kangpokpi district and the killing of two CRPF personnel in a brazen attack on a CRPF outpost in Bishnupur district.

The biggest challenge remains the prevalence of looted arms among civilians on both sides of the divide. A police officer estimated that around 2,000 weapons seized from security establishments during the course of the conflict have been recovered, but another 4,000 remain in the hands of civilians. The solution to the conflict must come from dialogue by public representatives, as non-state actors such as armed miscreants and militant groups continue to have legitimacy in the state.

Groups on both sides of the divide continue to claim that only the Central government can offer solutions to the conflict. Kuki-Zomi groups, along with the 10 Kuki-Zomi MLAs of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, have been claiming that the only acceptable solution is a “separate administration” from the rest of Manipur. Khuraijam Athouba, spokesperson for COCOMI, an organization representing Meitei interests, said that the only way forward is for the Centre to take a harder line with Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups and suspend ceasefire settlements with them.

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Source: The Indian Express

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