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"Shoot-at-sight" orders issued as violence erupts in India's Manipur state


Shoot at sight order in Manipur

Indian authorities have given shoot-at-sight orders and enforced a curfew in the northeastern state of Manipur as violence continues between tribal and non-tribal groups. The orders were issued by state Governor Anusuiya Uikey, who authorised magistrates to use force in extreme cases where warnings and reasonable force are not effective in stopping protesters. The orders come as the Indian government sends reinforcements from the federal Rapid Action Force to the region to help restore peace. About 9,000 people have been evacuated from violence-hit districts to other areas and are being sheltered in government premises and army camps. Mobile internet services have also been suspended for five days statewide.


The clashes erupted on Wednesday after protests by more than 50,000 Kuki tribespeople and members of other predominantly Christian tribal communities in Churachandpur and adjoining districts against a demand by the majority non-tribal Meitei community for the status of a Scheduled Tribe. The Meitei community’s demand for special status would grant them benefits, including the right to farm on forest land, low-cost bank loans, and health and educational facilities, as well as a specified quota of government jobs. The tribals, who say the Meitei community is comparatively well-off, argue that granting them more privileges would be unfair.


Tribal and non-tribal groups have been fighting for years over a range of issues, including control over land and resources, political power, and ethnic identity. The Meiteis are mostly Hindus, while rival groups, including the Kuki and other tribes, are mostly Christian and mainly live in the surrounding hill districts. The tribals constitute about 40 percent of the state population of 3.5 million.


Mary Kom, India’s top female boxer, who hails from the state, appealed to the federal and state governments to take quick action to defuse the tense situation. The Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, pleaded with people to maintain peace and harmony, adding that “precious life” had been lost in the clashes. Television channels have broadcast images of both tribespeople and Meitei people burning tyres on roads and setting fire to some houses in parts of the state, which shares a border with Myanmar. Nazimuddin Siddique, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nagaland University, said that “what is happening in Manipur is a reflection of the sad state of democracy in northeast India”.



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