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    Indian army helps defuse clashes in northeastern state

    GUWAHATI, India — Indian army soldiers patrolled the streets and enforced a curfew after thousands of people clashed in a remote northeastern state, causing casualties and damage to homes and vehicles, officials said Thursday.

    Internet services were also suspended for five days in Manipur state bordering Myanmar to stop rumors from spreading on social media, according to N. Biren Singh, the state’s top elected official.

    “I appeal for calm and return to peace as precious lives have been lost and there have been cases of clashes, arson and vandalism in parts of Manipur,” Singh said in a tweet on Thursday.

    He did not provide further details and police did not say how many people died or were injured in the violence that erupted on Wednesday after protest marches by up to 10,000 Kukis and members of other tribal communities who are predominantly Christian in Churachandpur and adjoining districts in Manipur state.

    They were protesting the majority Meitei Hindu community’s demand for a special status that would grant them benefits including the right to farm on forest land, cheap bank loans, and health and educational facilities, as well as a fixed quota of government jobs.

    Mary Kom, India’s top woman boxer, who hails from the state, appealed to the federal and state governments to take quick action to defuse the tense situation.

    India’s Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Singh on Thursday and decided to send reinforcements from the federal Rapid Action Force to restore peace in the state.

    Minority hill community leaders say the Meitei community is comparatively well-off and that granting them more privileges would in effect be discrimination against them.

    The Meiteis say that the employment quotas and other benefits of the tribespeople would be protected.

    Two-thirds of the state’s 2.5 million people live in a valley that comprises roughly 10% of the state’s total area. The Meiteis are Hindus while rival groups, including the Kuki and other tribes, are mostly Christian and mainly live in the surrounding hill districts. Ethnic Muslims constitute about 8% percent of the state population.

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