By Krishn Kaushik
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday blamed the unrest in Myanmar for the ethnic conflict in the neighbouring northeastern Indian state of Manipur, urging both sides in the Manipur dispute to resolve their dispute through dialogue.
Shah told parliament that political instability in Myanmar had prompted thousands of refugees to flee into Manipur across a porous border.
More than 180 people have been killed, many hundreds more wounded and tens of thousands made homeless in Manipur since May.
Since the coup in Myanmar in 2021 the junta has been fighting pro-democracy forces across the country. Chins in northern Myanmar and Kukis in Manipur share the same ethnic lineage.
Shah urged the two warring ethnic sides in Manipur, the majority Meiteis and the Kukis, to come to the table for peace talks and resolve the issue through dialogue.
Resentment between members of the Kuki tribe – who live in the hills, get economic benefits and quotas in government jobs and education – and the Meiteis – who control the more prosperous lowlands – spilled over as they clashed on May 3.
The violence was triggered after a court in February suggested that the special privileges granted to the Kukis, comprising 16% of the state’s population, be extended to the Meiteis, who are a majority in Manipur.
The influx from Myanmar, Shah said, created “a feeling of insecurity” among the Meiteis. The February ruling added “fuel to the fire”, he said.
Speaking during the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, Shah told parliament that the violence was slowly decreasing, as nearly 36,000 military and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the state.
He said his ministry was “keeping a very close watch to ensure peace”.
“We will do it in the shortest possible time,” he said.
Appealing to the Meiteis and Kukis, he said: “Please leave violence, come and talk to India… Come and talk to us together.”
(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik; Editing by Nick Macfie)