Nine people were injured in firing at four places in Manipur today, allegedly between two groups amid the heightened ethnic tension in the northeast state bordering Myanmar. Eight of them were injured in firing at a single place.
The first firing took place between 10.30 am and 11 am in Kangchup village, adjacent to Phayeng village, 15 km from the state capital Imphal, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Newsbust India on phone from Imphal.
Sources said some people from the valley areas had been searching for two youths – a 16-year-old teen and a 19-year-old youth identified as Ningthoujam Anthony – who went missing on Sunday, an incident that led to fresh protests in Imphal.
The Kuki group Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), however, in a statement said four middle-aged civilians have been kidnapped near Kangchup Chingkhong village in Kangpokpi district, 45 km from Imphal. The Manipur Police in a post on X confirmed the incident. “… Security forces are actively working to locate the missing individuals and rescue them,” the police said.
The alleged disappearances and kidnappings and claims and counter-claims added to the tension and a combination of these likely sparked today’s incidents, sources said.
Later in the evening today, the police said two insurgents of the Kuki Revolutionary Army (Unification), or KRA(U), suspected of involvement in the disappearance of the two youths were arrested and taken into custody for interrogation.
Earlier today, suspected insurgents in the hills near Kangchup opened fired at those who were looking for the two valley youths, leaving eight injured near a paddy field, sources said.
Subsequently, some people were fired upon from the hills towards Koutruk village, just 2 km from Kangchup, around the same time this morning.
Another firing took place in Thoubal district’s Maphou Dam – a picturesque area popular with tourists – again, around the same time as the attack in Kangchup village, sources said.
The fourth firing incident happened in Nambol Irengbam at 2 pm, sources said.
All the areas where the firing took place are near or in the foothills, with forested hills overlooking agricultural fields. Ethnic tensions between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis still linger, over six months since clashes between the two communities killed some 180 and left thousands internally displaced.
Of the nine people injured, one is a Manipur Police commando, one Village Defence Force (VDF) member, and seven civilians. A man and a woman who were hit by bullets are in a serious condition, sources said. The Manipur Police on its website shows Imphal East has a VDF strength of 1,750 and Imphal West 2,050.
On 07.11.2023, at Kangchup Chingkhong, a Bolero carrying five individuals belonging to Kuki community (2 women and 3 men) en-route from Churachandpur to Leimakhong was confronted by an enraged mob. The mob forcibly took away four of them, while one escaped. One person from the…
— Manipur Police (@manipur_police) November 7, 2023
Purported visuals of the firing incidents today show a man and a woman lying on a road near a field amid gunfire. The sharp crack of bullets whizzing past them is also heard. The woman, claimed to be a farmer, has a bullet injury on her back.
“Are we going to die?” the woman, who is crying in pain, is heard asking.
“We won’t die. Wait for help, ima (mother),” the man replied, and shouted for help to some people in the distance.
The ITLF in the statement appealed to the security forces to immediately launch an operation to rescue the four civilians who were allegedly kidnapped from Kangpokpi district.
“Five tribal civilians were travelling… when they were accosted by gunmen. In the ensuing scuffle, 65-year-old Manglun Haokip… got injured and fell unconscious. Thinking him to be dead, he was left behind. CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel later found him and transported him to Leimakhong. Due to the severity of his injuries, he has been airlifted to a neighbouring state,” the ITLF said in the statement.
It said two women and two men – Nengkim, 60; Neilam, 55; John Thangjalam Haokip, 25, and Jamkhothang, 40 – were taken captives in the valley.
At least 25 Kuki insurgent groups have signed the tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with the centre and the state government, under which they have to stay at designated camps, and keep their weapons in locked storage for regular joint monitoring with the security forces.
While the Kuki tribes have alleged the Meitei youth group Arambai Tenggol has taken up arms and other valley-based groups participated in the ethnic violence, the Meiteis have pointed out to the alleged involvement of a huge number of Kuki insurgents – who are part of the SoO agreement – in the attacks on Meitei villages.
The situation in Manipur has led to criticism that ground rules of the SoO agreement have been violated with impunity.