As the massive crowd swell, the security forces apprehending an inevitable clash, fired tear gas shells and mock bombs. They also fired rubber bullets towards the crowd.
Around ninety persons including women volunteers and a news-media person sustained injuries on Wednesday after security forces fired tear gas shells, mock bombs and rubber bullets to thousands of Meitei who marched towards the barricades at sensitive areas between Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts in Manipur.
Since morning, thousands of protesters gathered at Phougakchao Ikhai in Bishnupur district to push back/shift barricades put up by central security forces apparently after the call to do the same by the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), the umbrella body of Meitei civil society groups.
The massive crowd comprising of Meitei marchers made an attempt to reach areas in Torbung where Kuki armed volunteers destroyed the homes of many Meitei villagers. The place where the massive crowd gathered few kilometre away from Churachandpur District.
Most of the Meitei marchers came to the spot of the confrontation defying curfews in the Meitei-majority valley region of Manipur. It was reported that COCOMI had urged the people to march on till they reach Chin-Kuki-majority Churachandpur areas. Apprehending tension and violence, the government of Manipur had appealed the people not to go ahead with the proposed march as it may worsen the ongoing crisis.
“We want the barricades to be removed because beyond the barricades there are lands of the Meiteis. We want our people to resettle there and get our land back,” COCOMI convenor Jeetendra Ningomba said.
Since the early hours in the morning, a large number of armed personnel comprising of both the state and central forces were seen deployed in the area. Total curfew was imposed in the five valley districts as a preventive measure. However, defying the curfew orders, many volunteers from various places in the valley thronged at Phougakchao Ikhai.
Security was tightened in Churachandpur district headquarters, located around 35 km from the Bishnupur district headquarters.
Many residents of Torbung who were present during the confrontation informed newspersons that they were unable to go home due to the barricades at Phougakchao Ikhai. They said they fled from Torbung when ethnic violence broke out on May 3.
Meanwhile, it was reported that six representatives of COCOMI reached Kangvai and started removing the barricades. The Meitei marchers at Phougakchao Ikhai erupted with an intention to reach the barricadex at Kangvai areas.
A palpable tension prevailed in the area, with security forces comprising personnel of RAF, the Assam Rifles and Manipur Police firing tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.
The marchers demanded that they should be allowed to visit Torbung, the place where Meitei people were displaced following the ethnic clashes since May. There was an argument between forces and volunteers for quite some time.
Meanwhile, it has been informed that not a single person out of the 700 displaced has started resettling in Torbung Bangla areas, Bishnupur district. The police personnel informed that some displaced persons went to Torbung area taking own risks.
“Some went and stayed at Torbung Bangla but we are not sure whether or not they have been resettled”, said a resident of Phougakchao Ikhai. The residents of the village added that there is “a genuine fear of attack by Kuki armed miscreants anytime as the place is closer to Kangvai.