As tension continues to simmer in Manipur, members of the majority Meitei group on Thursday said they are at the risk of “ethnic cleansing” in their own state while comparing their precarious situation with that of Kashmiri Pandits.

Addressing a press conference in the national capital, members of the World Meetei Council also came down heavily on the state and the central government, and rued that they have been unable to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah despite several attempts.’

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.

“The incidents that happened in Manipur were pre-planned. We kept warning the government that something like this may happen… We are today in a situation similar to what the Kashmiri Pandits faced,” Nabashyam Heigrujam, president of civil society group World Meitei Council, said.

“We are at the risk of ethnic cleansing in our own state,” he claimed.

Heigrujam also said that they have been trying to fix a meeting with Shah for over a year now, but have not been given an appointment yet.

“Meiteis and Nagas are the original people of Manipur… We wanted to submit our viewpoint to the home minister. We tried our best to speak to him for at least five minutes. We have submitted our application, but even in this time of crisis, we are very much hurt that the home minister has no time to meet us,” he added.

Nabakishore Singha Yumnam, spokesperson of the World Meetei Council, said urgent action is needed on behalf of the government by providing Scheduled Tribe status to the Meiteis at par with the Nagas and Kukis.

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 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.

The Meitei community also demanded implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Manipur to weed out “illegal immigrants”, and cancelation of the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement signed with various Kuki militant groups.

The SoO was signed by the Centre, Manipur government and two conglomerates of Kuki militant outfits – Kuki National Organisations and United Peoples Front. The pact was first signed in 2008 and extended periodically.

The May 3 ethnic clashes claimed more than 70 lives and some 10,000 army and paramilitary personnel had to be deployed to bring back normalcy in the northeastern state.