On 8 September, many of the Kuki-Zo homes and shops in Pallel—an ethnically mixed town in Manipur’s Kakching district that had not seen major violence over the past four months of ethnic conflict in the state—were burned by Meitei mobs as Manipur Police officers watched. More worryingly, the police have acted to protect several Meiteis, dressed in the uniforms of the Manipur Police Commandoes, who had opened fire at Kuki-Zo-majority villages near Pallel, even firing mortars at churches in the town. At least three people were reportedly killed in the attack and over fifty injured. The attack on Pallel points to an escalation of violence that specifically targeted the only town where Kuki-Zo and Meitei communities had reached a “peace accord” in the presence of the Manipur Police and the Assam Rifles, who acted as facilitators.
Early on the morning of 8 September, SOS messages circulated in Molnoi, a village on the outskirts of Pallel, said that they were being shot at from a hilltop near the village of Thamlapokpi. Pallel and Molnoi lie on the border between Kakching district, in the Meitei-majority plains of Manipur, and Tengnoupal, a hill district largely populated by Kuki-Zos and Nagas. The town itself has a mixed population of Kuki, Meitei and Naga communities, surrounded by several satellite villages, fifteen of which are Kuki-majority, while several others are either largely Naga or Meitei. Thamlapokpi is a village of the Lamkang Naga community in Tengnoupal district, which is on the route to Chandel, a predominantly Naga district. Given the majority Naga demographics of the region, central forces have not been deployed here heavily, allowing for access points within the district that could lead to Kuki-Zo-majority areas.