India: Govt Admits 219 Deaths In Sectarian Strife In Manipur


(UCA News) — The government in India’s strife-torn Manipur has admitted for the first time that 219 persons have been killed in the ethnic violence that broke out nearly 10 months ago in the northeastern state.

Governor Anusuiya Uikey disclosed the figures during her address to the state legislative assembly on Feb. 28. Most of the victims are tribal Christians.

The state’s police have registered close to 10,000 cases in connection with the sectarian violence and arrested 187,143 people as a preventive measure, Uikey said.

Uikey told the assembly that compensation would be given to the families of deceased persons and expressed sympathies with them.

Manipur, bordering civil war-hit Myanmar, has witnessed unprecedented violence since May 3 last year between Kuki tribal Christians and the Meitei Hindu community.

But Prime Minister Narendra Mod has not visited the state, although its government is run by his pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

The sectarian strife started over granting tribal status to the influential Meiteis that would guarantee them reservation quotas in education and government jobs under India’s affirmative action.

Christians who make up nearly 41 percent of Manipur’s 3.2 million population are against granting reservation quotas to the Meiteis who form a majority of the state’s 53 percent Hindus.

The initial days, in July last year, saw two indigenous Christian women being paraded naked and one of them being gang-raped.

More than 50,000 people have been displaced and are living in government-run relief camps as their houses were burnt.

Nearly 350 places of worship, including churches, have been damaged.

The governor said 29 cases have been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation and one case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which specializes in cases related to terrorism and reports to the prime minister.

The state plans to hand over five more cases to the NIA, Uikey added.

Uikey further said that the state has sought the help of the Indian army to maintain peace as the violence continues with no end in sight.

On Feb. 27, nearly 200 armed men stormed the house of Superintendent of Police Moirangthem Amit Singh and abducted him along with one of his guards after firing indiscriminately.

The officer and his guard were rescued on the same day. The kidnapping is attributed to the Arambai Tenggol, reported to be associated with the Meitei community.

On Feb. 23, a bomb blast took place inside a university campus, causing the death of one student.

In another incident on Feb. 13, a mob looted weapons from a reserve police battalion camp in the capital Imphal.

On the same day, there was an attempt to loot arms from the Manipur Police Training Center.

Indigenous Christians say they have lost faith in the government led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh who hails from the Meitei community.

They want the federal government to directly control the administration and security of the state.

The Catholic Church has a diocese in the troubled state, based in the state capital Imphal, and headed by Archbishop Linus Neli.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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