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Despite the Centre’s peace efforts, Manipur’s two warring ethnic communities – the non-tribal Meitei and Kuki-Zomi tribals – are still sharply divided and there is no sign of reconciliation among them even after one year of the strife that began on May 3 last year. Incidents of violence continued despite the Central government’s all-out support to the northeastern state, and in fact, intensified in the past two weeks as “Village Volunteer” groups of both Meiteis and the Kuki-Zomi communities, possessing sophisticated arms and ammunition, engaged in several fierce exchanges of fire, leaving at least one “Village Volunteer” dead and many injured.

On April 27, two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including a sub-inspector, were killed while two others were injured after armed groups attacked a security force camp in Bishnupur district, and days before, on April 24, a vital bridge on National Highway-2 in Manipur’s Kangpokpi district was badly damaged in a powerful IED blast, disrupting traffic between Manipur and the rest of the country via Nagaland.

Meitei and the Kuki-Zomi leaders accused each other of perpetrating these actions. The sharp ethnic divisions remain despite the Centre’s help for security and rehabilitation .A Manipur government official said that the Centre not only provided adequate security, including Army and para-military forces but also gave a huge financial package for rehabilitation of the displaced people and reconstruction of houses and more. ”From agriculture to health to education and other basic facilities, the Union Government has sanctioned huge funds to the state government.

Many demands of the tribals including security and transportation have also been fulfilled by the Centre,” the official said. Meanwhile, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), the apex body of the Kuki-Zomi tribals, on Wednesday called a shutdown on May 3 to mark one year of the ethnic conflict and urged all members of the Kuki-Zo community to hoist a black flag on every household as a mark of remembrance and solidarity.

”All business establishments, institutions, and markets are requested to remain closed on this day as a sign of respect and homage to our fallen heroes. Let us come together as one community to reflect on our journey, reaffirm our oneness, and strengthen our resolve towards a brighter future for the Kuki-Zo people,” an ITLF statement said. Just last month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while addressing an election rally at the Hapta Kangjeibung ground in Imphal East district, had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s priority is to establish peace and unity in Manipur, and the election was to unite Manipur and against the division of the state.

Claiming that attempts of infiltration were being made in the northeastern state to change its demography, Shah had said that this parliamentary election was between forces trying to divide Manipur and those keeping it united. Since the ethnic violence began in Manipur on May 3 last year, 10 tribal MLAs belonging to Kuki-Zomi communities and several leading tribal organisations, including ITLF and Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), have been demanding separate administrations or a separate state for the tribals of the state.

On the other hand, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said that the influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar led to the emergence of 996 new villages in the state in the past 18 years. He said that during this period, massive deforestation occurred to establish settlements and carry out poppy plantations while these illegal immigrants started encroaching on the resources, job opportunities, land, and rights of the indigenous people. Over 220 people were killed, 1,500 injured and over 70,000 people displaced after the ethnic violence broke out on May 3 last year after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’, organised in the hill districts to protest the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status. The rioting also left thousands of houses, government and non-government properties, and religious installations destroyed or damaged.