Around 150 people sustained minor injuries in Manipur’s Bishnupur district on Wednesday after security forces fired several rounds of tear gas shells to disperse thousands of protestors trying to remove Army barricades.
Bishnupur Deputy Commissioner Lourembam Bikram told Scroll that there was no stampede even as some media reports suggested so.
Security officials said that over 10,000 protestors assembled at Phougakchao Ikhai and Kwakta towns of the Meitei-dominated Bishnupur district, The Indian Express reported.
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, the most influential of Meitei civil society groups, had asked residents to push back Army barricades at Phougakchao Ikhai towards Kuki-Zomi dominated Churachandpur. This will enable Meiteis, who have been displaced in the ethnic violence that started on May 3, to return to their homes, the group had said.
Responding to the COCOMI’s call, the Manipur government on Tuesday reinstated curfew in all the five districts of the Imphal valley.
On the same day, Manipur Information and Public Relations Minister Sapam Ranjan Singh had asked the Meitei group to cancel its protest as the government had already removed many barricades. He added that around 700 people who had been displaced from Torbung, located at the border of Manipur’s Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts, had returned and resettled.
But the protestors defied the curfew on Wednesday and were briefly stopped by the state police forces around noon. The crowd stormed Kwakta barricades around 12.30 pm and marched towards Torbung.
An unidentified senior government official told The Hindu that miscreants used automatic guns to fire at the security forces and a mob also threw stones at them. Three Rapid Action Force personnel were injured in the chaos.
The development came a day after the Supreme Court asked the Manipur government to take action against those stocking or using illegal arms. A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud asked the Manipur government and the law enforcement agencies to file a status report on the recovery of arms from “all sources”.
Meanwhile, the curfew in the five districts were relaxed on Wednesday to allow residents to buy essential items, reported PTI.
From Thursday, curfew will be relaxed in Imphal East, Imphal West and Kakching between 5 am to 6 pm. In Thoubal, there will be no restriction on movement between 5 am and 8 pm and in Bishnupur from 5 am to 11 am.