The Centre airlifted around one thousand Border Security Force (BSF) personnel to Manipur on Tuesday (June 06) as violence, arson and killings continued in the State. More than 20,000 Central armed police force personnel and army troops have been deployed in Manipur since ethnic violence between the Meitei and the Kuki communities erupted on May 3, claiming more than 100 lives so far.
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An eight-year-old tribal boy, who had been injured by a gunfight while in an Assam Rifles relief camp, was then burnt alive in Imphal West on Sunday evening along with his Meitei mother and another relative, when his ambulance, moving under police protection, was waylaid by a mob and set ablaze.
BSF constable killed
BSF constable Ranjit Yadav was killed at 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, following a gunfight with Kuki “insurgent groups” at Serou-Sugnu in Kakching that lasted more than 48 hours, the BSF said. Two Assam Rifles personnel were also injured in the incident.
A resident of North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, Mr. Yadav joined the force in 2008. He is survived by his parents, wife and a son. He was deployed at Serou Practical High School and was hit by a bullet to his chest during an exchange of fire with “Kuki miscreants”.
Multiple incidents of violence, arson and firing in Sugnu and Serou necessitated the redeployment of additional troops over the past 48 hours, the Army said in a statement. The area is at a junction of Meitei and Kuki settlements. The additional troops were tasked with beefing up the ongoing extensive area domination operations, ambushes and measures to prevent arson and violence, the Army said.
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During the operation by the BSF, Assam Rifles and Manipur Police, an “intermittent exchange of fire took place between security forces and insurgents during the night of June 5 and 6,” the Army said. It added that security forces took adequate measures to prevent insurgents from “breaking contact” and running away to nearby areas. During the preliminary search, two AK series rifles, one 51 mm mortar, two carbines, ammunition and warlike stores were recovered, and “inputs indicate some casualties to insurgents and are being verified on ground,” the statement added.
Ambulance set ablaze
Earlier, on June 4, eight-year-old Tonsing Hangsing, his 45-year-old mother Meena Hangsing, and another relative, the 37-year-old Lydia Lourembam, were killed when an ambulance carrying them was stopped by a mob and set afire, said Henkhongam Hangsing, a relative of the deceased. Meena was a Meitei married to a Kuki.
Despite repeated requests, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Manipur Police refused to comment on the incident.
Tonsing was staying with his family at an Assam Rifles relief camp at Kangchup. Around 5 p.m. on June 4, a gunfight started in the area and, despite being within the camp, Tonsing was hit by a bullet while his mother cooked in the verandah.
“The Assam Rifles commander took responsibility and spoke to the police in Imphal and arranged for an ambulance to Imphal. Since the mother was a Meitei, a call was taken to take him by road to Imphal, instead of a hospital in Kuki area that could have been very far,” Mr. Hangsing said.
The Assam Rifles escort accompanied them for three or four kilometres, after which the local police took over. “Around 6:30 p.m. the ambulance was waylaid by civilians at Isoisemba and set ablaze. All three in the vehicle were killed. We still do not know where the bodies are,” Mr. Hangsing said.
The Indigeneous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) said that since the visit of Home Minister Amit Shah, “10 lives have been lost in the ethnic war in Manipur.” Mr. Shah had visited the State from May 29 to June 1 and met several Meitei and Kuki delegations.
“We strongly condemn these incessant attacks and the ongoing process of ethnic cleansing of our community. We urge the Central government to put an end to the violence against Manipur’s tribals and provide stronger security to safeguard us until a lasting political solution is found,” ITLF said.
The Manipur government on Tuesday extended its ban on internet services till June 10.
Since May 3, clashes between the two communities over a move for granting Scheduled Tribe status to Meiteis have displaced over 35,000 people.