Thousands of tribals seek refuge in Mizoram amidst ethnic violence in Manipur

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Aizawl/Imphal, May 23, 2023, IANS

The aftermath of ethnic violence in Manipur has led to a significant influx of tribal individuals seeking shelter in the neighboring state of Mizoram. Officials confirmed that over 7,700 people have already sought refuge in eight districts of Mizoram, fearing the tense situation prevailing in tribal-dominated areas of Manipur.

Aizawl officials expressed concerns that the sporadic incidents of violence and unrest in Manipur's tribal districts might prompt more displaced individuals, particularly ethnic Zos, also known as Kukis, to seek safety in Mizoram.

Among the districts in Mizoram, Kolasib reported the highest number of refugees, with approximately 2,690 people finding shelter there. Aizawl and Saitual districts accommodated 2,386 and 2,153 individuals, respectively. The remaining displaced people found solace in five other districts across Mizoram.

Affected individuals have sought refuge in the homes of relatives and friends, while others have been accommodated in community halls, schools, and vacant buildings across the state.

Meanwhile, numerous organizations, predominantly led by women, have organized sit-in demonstrations in Manipur's valley districts, demanding the revocation of the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with Kuki militants and subsequent action against them. These groups also voiced their concerns over "illegal Myanmarese immigrants" and the cultivation of opium in hilly areas, urging immediate deportation and an end to the illicit activities.

Furthermore, these organizations vehemently protested against the demand made by 10 tribal Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to partition Manipur and establish a separate state for the tribal community.

In the wake of the recent unrest, shops, markets, and business establishments in Imphal East district's New Chekon area remained closed. Miscreants set fire to two houses in the locality after four armed individuals, including a former MLA, coerced shop owners into shutting down their businesses on Monday. Authorities and security forces have advised residents to stay indoors, while sporadic incidents of violence, including house burnings, continue to be reported in various districts.

To maintain law and order, the Army, Assam Rifles, Manipur Police, and Rapid Action Force are jointly conducting extensive surveillance in the 11 districts with mixed populations where curfew orders are still in effect.

Tragically, the recent violence in Manipur has claimed the lives of 71 people, including police personnel, while 300 others have been injured. Out of Manipur's 16 districts, 11 have been affected, with six experiencing significant damage. The unrest has resulted in the displacement of over 25,000 people, destruction of nearly 1,700 houses, and damage to more than 200 vehicles.

The situation remains tense as displaced tribals seek refuge in Mizoram, while Manipur struggles to restore peace and security in the affected regions. The state government and security forces continue their efforts to contain the violence and provide assistance to those affected by the crisis. (Edited)