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Manipur: Thousands displaced as ethnic clashes grip north-eastern state

Dozens of people have been killed in ethnic clashes in the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur with mobs attacking homes, vehicles, churches and temples, officials say.

The violence began last week after indigenous communities held a rally to protest against demands by the main ethnic group in the state for tribal status.

Members of the Meitei community, who account for 53% of the state's population, have been demanding inclusion under the Scheduled Tribe category for years which will give them access to forest lands and guarantee them a proportion of government jobs and places in educational institutions.

The communities already recognised as Scheduled Tribes, especially Kukis who live in the hill districts, worry that they may lose control over their ancestral forest land if the Meitei's demand is accepted.

On Monday, India's Home Minister Amit Shah told a news channel that the situation in Manipur was under control and appealed to the people to maintain peace. The Manipur government would consult all stakeholders before taking a decision on the matter, he said.

Thousands of troops have been deployed in the state to maintain order and a curfew is in place in several districts and internet access has been suspended. Last week, the state's governor issued "shoot-on-sight" orders in "extreme cases" to bring the situation under control.

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