Manipur violence: Shah announces CBI probe into criminal conspiracies, says situation will be normal soon

Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah addresses a press conference, in Imphal, Manipur. Photo: PTI

Imphal: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday announced a CBI probe to investigate FIRs alleging five criminal conspiracies and one general conspiracy behind the violence in Manipur.

He, however, also said, "Violence was a temporary phase, misunderstandings will go away ... the situation will soon be normal."Shah said he had visited relief camps, met both Kuki and Meitei civil groups, and discussed the peace process.

The leaders of both the warring Meitei and Kuki communities, as well as other civil society representatives who have met him, have assured him that they would work to assuage hurt feelings and remove misunderstandings, Shah said.

The home minister said an Inter-Agency Unified Command will also be formed for "better coordination" among all security agencies in Manipur as multiple forces are working on the ground. Currently, some 10,000 army and Assam rifles personnel have been brought into the state to keep the peace. Besides, central police forces and state police are also functioning on the ground. It was felt that a unified command was necessary to avoid confusion. 

"One joint secretary-level officer from the Home Ministry and five director-level officers from different departments will be posted here," he added.

Shah also told newspersons that he felt for a permanent solution to the Indo-Myanmar border issue, the fencing on the border between the two countries will need to be completed.

There are apprehensions that the porous border is being used for drug smuggling and for the movement of militants.

He said biometrics of people coming from neighbouring countries are also being collected. A large number of refugees from the violence in Myanmar have also taken refuge in the border state and the central government has been trying to keep track of this population. 

Talking about the origin of the clashes which rocked Manipur, he said ethnic rioting began after the Manipur High Court on April 29 "hurriedly" sought the views of the state government on granting Scheduled Tribe status to a community.

Asked about the Kuki community's demand for a separate administrative unit, the Union Minister said: "The Central government had cleared its stand on Manipur's territorial integrity earlier. I don't want to make any statement to sensationalise the issue and make headlines."

He claimed that since BJP came to power in Manipur around six years ago, the northeastern state had remained free of bandhs, curfews and blockades, and reached the "peak" of peace and development.

Centre to expedite supply of essential commodities
Amit Shah said a relief and rehabilitation package for families who have lost members to the violence or suffered injury or damage to property will soon be announced by the government, and the money will be transferred directly to the bank accounts of the victims and their kin.

Shah also promised to expedite supplies of essential commodities to cool down prices in the land-locked state.

"We will set up a temporary railway station at Khongsang within a week. This will help the movement of people and transportation of goods to a large extent," he added.

The Centre will also send medical teams including 20 specialised doctors to the state, besides arranging to support students appearing for competitive examinations, Shah said.

"We will start temporary helicopter services to connect the Imphal airport with the hill districts. Tickets will be offered at Rs 2,000 per passenger and the gap will be borne by the state and central governments," he added.

Appealing to citizens not to pay heed to rumours, the Home Minister said special telephone lines will be set up where people can ring and check the veracity of rumours being circulated.

Speaking of militant groups, he said: "Any deviation from the Suspension of Operations agreement (pacts brokering ceasefire) will be considered as a violation of the pacts they have signed. Strict action will be taken against the violators." A number of Kuki militant groups have signed such deals and currently stay in camps under the watchful eyes of the Assam Rifles.

This statement comes against the backdrop of reports of militants taking up arms and acting as vigilantes during the rioting.

Shah also appealed to all to return the unlicensed arms immediately and said police will start combing operations and take action from Friday.

The army and police forces are conducting state-wide search operations for hidden arms caches.

Surveillance by drones and deployment of security forces also continues, said officials.

Shah on Wednesday had said the government is committed to restore peace in Manipur and ensuring an early return of all internally displaced people back to their homes.

Meeting victims from both Meitei and Kuki communities a day before in relief camps in the state, he assured them of security and said the government's focus is to ensure their safe return home.

Ethnic clashes broke out in the state nearly a month ago after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

After a relative lull for over a fortnight, the state witnessed a spurt in clashes and gunfights between militants and security forces on Sunday.

So far, over 80 people have been killed in the violence, according to officials.
(with PTI inputs)

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