IMPHAL, May 15 (PTI): Chief minister N Biren Singh on Monday rejected a demand made by 10 MLAs, including seven from the ruling BJP, for a separate administration for the Kuki-dominated districts of the northeastern state, stating, “the territorial integrity of Manipur will be protected”.
The chief minister, who had made an air-dash to Delhi on Sunday to confer with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, said measures are being taken to ensure that militants, who had signed a peace pact dubbed ‘Suspension of Operations’, return to their designated camps.
Singh also appealed to people not to hold ‘dharnas’ or rallies in view of the sensitive phase the state has been witnessing since race riots between the majority Meiteis and the Kukis earlier this month.
He also said no force would be used to break the blockades imposed by some groups on highways in the state in the wake of the rioting, and instead “efforts would be made to reason with these demonstrators”.
The chief minister, who was speaking to reporters at a press conference here, said, “I assure the people that the territorial integrity of Manipur will be protected at all costs”.
“Measures are being undertaken with the supervision of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to make the SoO (Suspension of Operations) groups return to their camps and strengthen efforts to bring normalcy back to the state,” he said.
Singh said that he and his ministers, who had travelled to Delhi with him, had briefed Shah about the prevailing situation in the state and “conveyed to him the sentiments of the people of Manipur on the situation” as also intelligence “on the involvement of armed militants in the recent violence”.
Asked about the demand made by 10 MLAs for a separate administration for Kuki areas of the state, he said, “There is no threat to the integrity of Manipur”.
Ten tribal MLAs belonging to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi group in Manipur have urged the Centre to give their region a “separate administration” in the wake of recent violent clashes between the Meiteis and tribals.
Replying to a query about the involvement of Kuki militants in the violence, Singh said, “Army and other security personnel are visiting designated camps of Kuki militants, who are part of the ‘Suspension of Operation’ pact and checking whether they are present there or not.”
“Several innocent people died and properties have been damaged. We are focusing on rehabilitation and resettlement of affected people,” he said.
The chief minister also said the priority of his government is to restore peace and normalcy in the state.
He also asked deputy commissioners and police chiefs of various districts to ensure that the properties of those who fled homes due to the violence are not looted.
At least 73 people were killed, 231 injured and 1,700 houses, including religious places, burnt in the ethnic violence that rocked the northeastern state recently, said officials.
However, fresh violence was reported late May 13 night.
“Suspected militants opened fire and torched around 10 houses at Torbung in Bishnupur district,” a police officer said.
Clashes broke out in Manipur after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The violence was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals – Nagas and Kukis – constitute another 40 percent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
Some 10,000 army and paramilitary personnel had to be deployed to bring back normalcy in the northeastern state.