India eases curfew in violence-hit Manipur

Indian army soldiers patrol during a security operation in hill and valley areas in the northeastern state of Manipur, India, on 7 June, 2023

Indian authorities said on Sunday they had started to relax a curfew imposed in violence-hit Manipur after 45 days of civil unrest in the north-east state, seeking to reduce anger spilling onto the streets and restore normalcy.

“We have decided to remove curfew from 5:00 am until 5:00 pm to enable residents to buy food, medicines, and other essentials,” said Diana Devi, a local government official based in capital city of Imphal, not far from the border with Myanmar.

Manipur has experienced widespread violence since 3 May, following protests by Indigenous communities sparked by resentment over economic benefits and quotas for government jobs and education reserved for Kukis, an ethnic group, who mostly live in the hills.

Meiteis, the dominant community in the low lands of the state, who account for half of state’s population, demand extension of limited affirmative action quotas to them.

But Kukis fear it would mean Meiteis would get a greater share in education and government jobs reserved for them.

Last week’s federal home ministry records showed 83 people have been killed and more than 60,000 residents displaced since May in the violence.

Indian army soldiers patrol in the northeastern state of Manipur, India, on 7 June, 2023

On Thursday, a federal minister’s house was set on fire in Imphal. He hails from the majority Meitei community.

Neighbouring states which have provided shelter to the displaced population appealed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to release funds needed to feed the refugees.

Leaders from the opposition party accused Modi government of failing to contain the crisis in a state governed by his party.

“We believe that if the prime minister takes action, then peace in Manipur can be restored in 24 hours,” said Nimaichand Luwang, an opposition lawmaker in Manipur.

A senior home ministry official in New Delhi said at least 32,000 security forces will continue to support local police until normalcy is restored.