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Day after ethnic violence, uneasy calm prevails in Manipur village, CM N Biren orders probe

GUWAHATI: Following Monday’s ethnic violence between Nagas and Kukis of two villages that reduced more than 100 houses to ashes, an uneasy calm prevails at Chassad village in Manipur’s Kamjong district on Tuesday.

Chief Minister N Biren Singh set up a three-member enquiry commission to probe the incidents. He warned that strict action would be initiated against those who were involved in burning down the houses of villagers.

The CM said his government would rebuild the houses that were torched and provide financial aid to the affected villagers. A large number of personnel of the police, Assam Rifles and Army have been deployed to the violence-hit as well as vulnerable areas.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have remained clamped at Chassad-Kamjong and along the main road of Sampui area. Mobile internet/data services were also suspended in the territorial jurisdiction of Manipur for three days on Monday.

Land dispute was believed to be the trigger of violent incidents. The violence broke out after the miscreants, allegedly Nagas, had torched the jhum cultivation of some Kuki villagers on Sunday.

In retaliation, the Kukis had set ablaze a newly-constructed fuel station, the owner of which is a Naga, at Chassad and blocked a major road there, thereby preventing the movement of vehicular traffic to state capital Imphal and Naga-majority Ukhrul town and Kamjong village. The protestors demanded that the miscreants, who were involved in Sunday’s incident, be handed over to them.

As vehicles were stranded, a large mob of the Nagas from Kamjong village went to the site to clear the road. This led to a clash between the two sides during which over 100 houses were set ablaze while about a dozen vehicles were either torched or damaged. Some people were injured in stone-pelting. Chassad is a Kuki village.

The Kukis, who are believed to have migrated to Manipur from Myanmar more than 200 years ago, are settled in areas where their immediate neighbours are Nagas. The Nagas view them as migrants whom they had given space to settle.

Both communities have been locked in a bitter conflict over land ownership for decades. In September 1993, some 115 Kukis were massacred by the Naga militants.

In the Northeast, nothing is more conflicting than the different sense of history that each community fiercely claims to be true.

One such tipping point was reached last year over the erection of memorial stones commemorating the Anglo-Kuki uprising of 1917-19. The contentious words used by the Kukis on the memorial stones were: “In defence of our ancestral land and freedom”. Not just the Nagas, the Manipur government too had lodged a protest against it.