GAUHATI — Rioters set fire to the homes of seven lawmakers during a rampage to protest new legislation defining who can claim to be from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, police said Tuesday.
One person died while trapped in a burning house on Monday night, and two died when police fired to disperse the arsonists. On Tuesday, hundreds of people angry about the deaths circled the town’s police station and protested. The police, outnumbered, opened fire again. Two people were killed and another three were hospitalized with critical injuries.
Police imposed a curfew Tuesday night and deployed paramilitary forces amid heavy tension in Churachandpur town 70 kilometers (42 miles) southwest of the state capital of Imphal.
Lawmaker N. Biren Singh said the law demanding people provide proof that their families lived in Manipur before 1951 is aimed at keeping “outsiders” including migrants from settling in the state bordering Burma. But Singh said authorities had no plans to begin checking documents soon.
“Those who are protesting may be harboring fears the authorities might now start looking at relevant documents to see if anyone has settled down in the state after 1951,” Singh said.
The protesters said that setting such a limit excludes many who arrived legitimately after that date or who don’t have proper documents.
India’s remote northeastern region comprises a patchwork of ethnic and tribal communities who are distributed unevenly across seven states and spilling over into neighboring Burma. Tensions have erupted in recent years as those in India worry about refugees from Burma taking jobs and land.