Imphal: A panel led by a retired judge will probe the ethnic clashes in Manipur, while six cases, including a case of general conspiracy, will be registered and investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is on a 4-day visit to Manipur, said on Thursday.

“The probe will be conducted by CBI, under the guidance of Centre. I assure everyone that the probe will be neutral and will go to the roots of the reasons behind the violence,” Shah said during a press conference.

The Home Minister also warned of stern action against militants who looted weapons from security personnel. “If they don’t surrender the weapons, very strong action will be taken,” he said.

Shah said a judicial probe headed by a retired high court chief justice to inquire into clashes will soon be announced. He also announced that a peace committee under the Governor of Manipur, Anusuiya Uikey, which will have representatives of all political parties, besides representatives from both Kuki and Meitei communities and social organisations will be set up.

“Dialogue is the only solution to the ongoing crisis in Manipur,” Shah said.

“We will soon announce a judicial probe headed by a retired high court chief justice and set up a peace committee,” he said.

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The Home Minister also announced that a CBI probe will be instituted to probe five criminal conspiracies and one general conspiracy behind the violence in Manipur.

He, however, also said, “Violence was a temporary phase, misunderstandings will go away … the situation will soon be normal.”

The Union Home Minister also told newspersons that he felt for a permanent solution to the Indo-Myanmar border issue, the fencing on the border between the two countries will need to be completed.

There are apprehensions that the porous border is being used for drug smuggling and for movement of militants.

He said biometrics of people coming from neighbouring countries are being collected.

Shah said he had visited relief camps, met both Kuki and Meitei civil groups, and discussed the peace process.

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He claimed that after BJP which came to power in Manipur some six years back had ensured the northeastern state had remained free of bandhs, curfews, etc., till the recent bout of ethnic clashes, which he said was the result of a misunderstang and a hurried judgement.

The Manipur high court had recently asked the government for its views on the issue of granting a community scheduled tribe status.

Meanwhile, three police personnel were injured in a gunfight with suspected Kuki militants in Manipur’s Bishnupur district last night, officials said on Thursday.

The gunfight took place at Tangjeng under the Kumbi police station on Wednesday night, they said.

The injured have been admitted to an Imphal hospital, they added.

“Heavy exchange of fire has also been reported from Chanung in Imphal East district. We have not got any casualty report from there yet,” a senior official told PTI.

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The army and police forces are conducting state-wide search operations for hidden arms caches.

Surveillance by drones and deployment of security forces also continues, said officials.

Shah on Wednesday had said the government is committed to restore peace in Manipur and ensuring an early return of all internally displaced people back to their homes.

Meeting victims from both Meitei and Kuki communities a day before in relief camps in the state, he assured them of security and said the government’s focus is to ensure their safe return home.

Ethnic clashes broke out in the state nearly a month ago after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

After a relative lull for over a fortnight, the state witnessed a spurt in clashes and gunfights between militants and security forces on Sunday.

So far, over 80 people have been killed in the violence, according to officials.

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Also Read | What’s the Centre’s 3-pronged road to restore peace in Manipur?

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