Imphal/New Delhi: Two men were killed in Manipur’s Kangpokpi district by suspected insurgents, leading to a shutdown call and the blocking of National Highway 2 by an organization of the Kuki tribes. However, valley-based civil society groups have criticized the move, stating that it punishes the entire population for the actions of armed miscreants. Manipur’s lifelines, which pass through hill areas, are often blocked whenever local tensions arise, causing significant disruptions. One of the men killed, Henminlen Vaiphei, was a member of the Indian Reserve Battalion and was ambushed by unidentified armed assailants while traveling in a Maruti Gypsy. The incident prompted the Kangpokpi-based Committee on Tribal Unity (COTU) to announce an “emergency shutdown” in the district. The committee, representing the hill-majority Kuki tribes, called for separation from Manipur, stating that political separation is the only option left. The ethnic clashes between the Kuki tribes and the Meiteis, who reside in the valley area, have been ongoing since May. The highway blockades in Manipur have further burdened transporters and consumers, leading to increased prices of essential items due to daylight extortion. The cost of illegal highway “tax” extorted from truck drivers is passed on to consumers, resulting in a rise in prices by 10-30% for various goods. The ethnic unrest in Manipur is primarily attributed to the demand for inclusion of the Meiteis under the Scheduled Tribes category and the infiltration of illegal immigrants. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is investigating an alleged transnational conspiracy involving terror groups in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Manipur to exploit the ethnic violence in the state. The ban on nine Meitei extremist groups and their associate organizations has been extended for five years due to their involvement in anti-national activities and attacks on security forces.
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