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Three new deaths in Manipur despite Modi saying hopes were growing for peace

Fresh deaths come just two days after PM Modi says peace is returning to strife-torn state

Arpan Rai
Friday 18 August 2023 13:24 BST
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Three fresh deaths have been reported in India’s Manipur where ethnic clashes are brewing for months, taking the total death toll past 180, police officials said on Friday.

The latest deaths, coming after two weeks of stalemate, were reported from the northeastern state’s Ukhrul district. Three villagers were killed after a heavy gunfire erupted between the sparing local communities in Thowai village near Litan, reported Indian news channel NDTV.

Locals heard the gunfire in the morning and firing was stopped after the security forces reached the spot and intervened.

Thousands have been displaced from the remote Indian state bordering Myanmar witnessing rape, beheadings and violence between May and August this year. Thousands of homes have been torched and shops and businesses vandalised as two communities – Meitei and Kuki – have been up in arms against each other.

The fresh deaths come just two days after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said peace was returning to the strife-torn state.

"For some days now, we are getting reports of extended peace. The country is with the people of Manipur. The country wants the people of Manipur to hold on to the peace of the last few days and take it forward," Mr Modi said in an Independence Day speech on Tuesday as he spoke from the ramparts of New Delhi’s Red Fort.

“The state and federal governments are working very hard and will continue to work hard to resolve this peacefully,” he said.

Mr Modi’s administration has rushed security forces to the hilly state to quell the violence, which comes as he is looking to secure a third term in a general election due by May next year.

The ethnic violence flared up in early May after a court order asked the state to consider extending economic benefits and quotas security in government jobs and education to the majority group of Meitei population, sparking uproar among the locals.

The state benefits were previously reserved for the minority tribal community of Kuki people, comprising nearly 84,000 in the state population of 3.2 million.

Nearly 1,519 miles (2444.5km) from New Delhi, Manipur has been the scene of near-civil war where mobs have been seen rampaging through villages and torching houses, and even parading women naked and sexually assaulting them. The death toll includes 21 women.

The state order, according to the minority hill community leaders, will benefit the Meitei community which is comparatively well-off. They argued that more privileges through the state order would be unfair.

The Meiteis say employment quotas and other benefits for tribes people would be protected.

In a severe backlash from opposition parties, the Modi administration has been accused of dividing the state and not doing enough to end the clashes.

The government rejected those accusations and defeated an opposition vote of no-confidence motion over the handling of the conflict in the parliament last week.

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