Clashes and chaos engulfs northeast India as home minister plans visit


GUWAHATI, India (AP) Shootings and arson broke out in Manipur state in northeastern India, where media reports said five people were killed in clashes between security forces and tribal rebels the day before. 

The state, which borders Myanmar, has been plagued by weeks of violence as Christian-majority tribal groups and Hindu-majority tribes clash over demands for special economic benefits.

More than 75 people were killed in the fighting, making it the worst ethnic conflict in decades in the state. Hundreds were injured and more than 35,000 were evacuated.

According to officials, India’s Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah will review the security situation and announce a move to the capital on Monday night to help restore peace in states where the internet has been cut to prevent the spread of rumors and curfews have been imposed. He said he was due to arrive in Imphal. Anything imposed is applied on the spot. The violence has prompted the federal government to deploy thousands of militias and troops to the state, and many of the recent deaths have been caused by security forces.

“The struggle is not between communities, but between Kuki rebels and government security forces,” Singh told reporters.

He said security forces responded after gunmen opened fire on civilians and set fire to homes.

The Indian Press Trust reported that the clashes came after security forces began searching for weapons looted from police stations to deter the violence.

Houses and buildings were burning in some villages on Sunday, filling the sky with gray smoke. The military also fired into the air and threw tear gas grenades to disperse mobs trying to steal weapons from a police station near Imphal, according to state government spokesman Sapam Ranjan. He said 1,041 guns and 7,500 rounds of ammunition had been looted in recent weeks and authorities had seized about 500 guns so far.

Gunshots were reported in an area near the capital on Monday, military officials said. Houses were also set on fire in the Leimakorn district, officials said.

This violence has led to more than 50,000 Kuki and other members of the mostly Christian tribal community, the Hindu Meitei, seeking special status that gives them benefits such as access to forests, cheap bank loans and good health. It first broke out on May 3 after protesting community calls. Nursing homes, educational institutions, and many government agencies. Kuki and other minority leaders argue that the Meitei community is doing relatively well, so it would be unfair to give them more privileges. Meitei and others argue that tribal employment quotas and other benefits are protected.

Two-thirds of the state’s 2.5 million inhabitants live in valleys, which cover about 10% of the state’s total area. The Kuki and other tribes live mainly in the surrounding mountainous areas.