Vandalism and arson occurred in several districts of Manipur as tensions grip the northeastern state amid widespread protests against the demand for the inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in the Scheduled Caste category. Image Credit: ANI

Imphal: Following widespread unrest in Manipur, the federal government on Friday imposed Article 355 in the state to control the situation, top police officials said on Friday.

Article 355 is a part of emergency provisions contained in the Constitution that empowers the federal government to take necessary steps to protect a state against internal disturbances and external aggression.

Director General of Manipur Police, P. Doungel said that after reviewing the situation, Article 355 has been imposed in the entire state allowing the central government to take all necessary steps to bring the situation under control and protect the lives and properties of the people.

Saying that some miscreants looted a police station in Bishnupur district, the police chief urged them to return the arms and ammunition failing which stern action would be initiated against them.

“The situation in Manipur is expected to be brought under control in a day or two,” the DGP said.

Army and Assam Rifles continued to conduct flag marches in several trouble-torn districts of Manipur for the third day on Friday even as sporadic incidents were reported from different areas.

A defence spokesman on Friday said that flag marches were underway in several areas specially in the most volatile Churachandpur district.

He claimed that the situation was brought under control in many areas through coordinated actions by all stakeholders.

“Indian Air Force undertook continuous sorties to carry additional Army and Paramilitary troops from two airfields in Assam employing C17 Globemaster and AN 32 aircrafts. Induction commenced on the night of Thursday and additional columns commenced domination with effect from the wee hours of Friday. Domination and evacuation of civilians of all communities from affected areas continued throughout the night,” the Defence PRO said.

Most vulnerable

The Manipur government on Thursday appointed Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) Ashutosh Sinha as the overall Operational Commander to control the situation and bring normalcy in the state.

Sinha on Friday said that 23 police stations, mostly in mountainous districts of the state, have been identified as most vulnerable and Army and central para-military forces were deployed in these police stations.

The ADGP, accompanied by senior other police officials, told the media that over 20,000 affected people of different communities have been evacuated and sheltered in safer places. “We urge the people not to fall prey to any rumour and if they need any assistance contact the nearby police stations and the government authorities,” Sinha said.

Retired IPS officer Kuldiep Singh, a former CRPF Chief, has been appointed security advisor by the Manipur government.

Meanwhile, more than five Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank officers and seven senior superintendents of police (SSP) and SP-rank officers of the CRPF have been tasked to coordinate the deployment of various security forces in violence infested Manipur.

A senior official of Manipur Home Department said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah is closely monitoring the situation in Manipur round the clock and he is in constant touch with top functionaries of state and Centre.

A scooterist rides past a destroyed water tanker that was set afire during a protest by tribal groups in Churachandpur in the northeastern state of Manipur. Image Credit: Reuters

Shah also spoke to Chief Ministers of several northeastern states and discussed the Manipur situation and about the wellbeing of the students and people living in Manipur.

Various state governments of the northeastern states are in touch with the Manipur authorities on the safety and security of the students and people belonging to different northeastern states living in Manipur.

Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram governments have set up 24 X 7 help lines for the benefit of the students and people living in Manipur.

Call to maintain calm

The situation turned seriously volatile after thousands turned up for the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ on Wednesday to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.

In view of the prevailing situation, the Manipur government on Thursday authorised all District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Magistrates and all Executive Magistrates to issue “Shoot at sight orders” in extreme cases.

A defence spokesman said that Army and Assam Rifles personnel conducted flag marches and aerial reconnaissance in areas of Khuga, Tampa, and Khomaujanbba areas of Churachandpur district, Mantripukhri, Lamphel, and Koeirangi area of Imphal West District, and Sugnu in Kakching districts.

In an appeal to the people, the Chief Minister urged them to maintain peace and calm and cooperate with the state government.

“Wednesday’s incidents took place due to misunderstanding between the communities. The government will settle the genuine demands and grievances after talking with all the communities and leaders,” Singh said in a video message.

Rumours of several deaths are being spread creating problems for the law enforcement agencies. However, authorities have not confirmed any fatalities.

Chief Ministers of all the northeastern states and six-time world champion boxer M.C. Mary Kom separately urged the people to maintain ethnic harmony, peace and calm.

The situation in Manipur turned volatile as thousands of tribals on Wednesday turned up for the march called by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) in all the 10 hill districts to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST category.

Acting on a writ petition filed by the Meetei (Meitei) Trade Union, the Manipur High Court on April 19 had directed the state government to consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list expeditiously.

The valley is dominated by Meitei and they are seeking the ST category status, alleging infiltration from Bangladesh and Myanmar, destroying the demographic pattern in the state.

Following the rally, clashes, attacks, counter-attacks among different communities and burning of houses and shops took place in different districts, forcing authorities to suspend mobile internet services for five days, while a night curfew was also imposed in several tension-ridden mountainous districts, including Imphal West, Bishnupur, Jiribam, Tenugopal, and Churachandpur.