Guwahati (Reuters) – At least nine people have been killed in the latest clashes between members of rival ethnic groups in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, police said on Wednesday, as security forces pressed on with a hunt for illegal weapons.
Violence between members of the Kuki ethnic group, who mostly live in the hills, and Meiteis, the dominant community in the low lands, erupted on May 3, sparked by resentment over economic benefits and quotas in government jobs and education reserved for hill people.
At least 80 people have been killed and more than 40,000 have been displaced in the state on the Myanmar border that is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.
K Shivakanta Singh, a senior police official in the state capital of Imphal, told reporters that a gun battle between rival factions erupted on Tuesday and went on for hours.
“We have reports of at least nine deaths and 10 injured so far,” Singh said. “The situation remains volatile.”
Federal security force reinforcements have been sent to the state and they have been searching for illegal weapons.
Civil society organisations from the Meitei and Kuki communities have refused to join a peace committee set up by the federal government in the brokering peace.
On May 3, members of the hill tribes including Kuki launched a protest against the possible extension of their benefits to the dominant Meiteis.
Meiteis account for half of Manipur’s population and extending limited affirmative action quotas to them would mean they would get a share in education and government jobs reserved for Kukis and others.
Manipur shares a nearly 400-km (250-mile) border with Myanmar and a coup there in 2021 pushed thousands of refugees into the Indian state.
Kukis share ethnic lineage with Myanmar’s Chin community and Meiteis feared they would be outnumbered by the arrival of the refugees.