The house of a Union Minister was attacked by a mob in Manipur last night, in the latest incident of violence in the northeast state which has been witnessing clashes between two groups over the demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Education RK Ranjan Singh was at his residence in Imphal at the time of the incident, officials said, adding that the security personnel fired in the air to disperse the mob. No casualties were reported, officials added.
The incident took place days after a similar attack at the house of PWD Minister Konthoujam Govindas in Bishnupur district. Mr Govindas, however, was not present at the house when the mob attacked his residence claiming that the government in the violence-hit state was not doing enough to protect locals from militants belonging to another community.
This was the first time a minister’s house was attacked during the ongoing ethnic violence between Meitei and Kuki community people in the state that started three weeks ago.
Army and paramilitary forces have been deployed to control the situation in the state.
Clashes broke out in Manipur after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The violence in Manipur was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
Meiteis are majority community in Manipur followed by tribal communities like Nagas and Kukis.
RK Ranjan Singh, who is Minister of State for External Affairs and Education, had recently held a meeting with a group of intellectuals from Manipur’s Meitei and Kuki communities to discuss how to bring peace in the violence-hit northeast state, sources have told NDTV.
“Ten intellectuals each from both the Meitei and the Kuki communities discussed how to bring peace and reconciliation in Manipur, and the way forward. They spoke about thousands of years of shared history, culture and civilisation and agreed no one wants to lose them,” a person who attended the meeting said, asking not to be named.
Last week, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “identify and condemn” local politicians who could be responsible for the trouble in Manipur.
“We are not to blame any community or ethnic group… The harmonious relations among ethnic groups are often violated by leaders for getting their political ends. Myopic politicians often play with the lives and emotions of the common people… They have done enough damage to society. Their tactics trigger unimaginable losses, for instance the present ethnic inferno. Such local leaders must be identified and condemned,” Mr Singh wrote in the letter to PM Modi on May 21.
Over 70 people have died since May 3 in clashes between the Meiteis, who live in and around the state capital Imphal valley, and the Kuki tribe, who are settled in the hills, over the valley residents’ demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to visit on May 29. Mr Shah has appealed for peace in the state and said he would visit the northeastern state soon and talk to people of both communities involved in the violence.
“There were clashes in Manipur after verdict of a court. I would appeal to both groups they should maintain peace, justice will be done with everyone. I will myself go to Manipur after few days and will stay there for three days and will talk to people of Manipur for establishing peace,” Amit Shah said at an event in Guwahati.
Manipur has seen ethnic violence with chief minister N Biren Singh stating earlier this month that around 60 people have lost their lives. Houses have also been burnt during the violence with new incidents also reported from some parts of the State.
Opposition parties have accused the BJP government in the state of having failed to maintain peace and order and said that thousands of people in the state have been rendered homeless.