Teargas fired as Gandhi convoy stopped by Indian police

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Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was stopped by local police on Thursday and teargas fired near his convoy on his way to visit the violence-hit northeastern Manipur state.

At least 80 people have been killed and more than 40,000 have fled their homes since clashes broke out in Manipur in early May between ethnic groups. Sporadic incidents of violence and arson still occur despite the heavy presence of security forces in parts of the remote state, which borders Myanmar.

Gandhi was travelling to Churachandpur district, one of the worst affected areas in the violence, when security forces stopped his convoy at Bishnupur, about 20 kms from the capital Imphal, citing security fears.

Teargas shells were then fired to disperse a crowd that had started gathering in the area.

"Seeing the ground situation, we stopped him from moving forward and advised him to travel to Churachandpur via helicopter," Bishnupur police chief Heisnam Balram Singh told Reuters TV partner ANI.

"There is a possibility of a grenade attack along the highway through which Rahul Gandhi is moving. Keeping his security and safety in mind, we've not allowed him."

Gandhi's convoy returned to Imphal and he reached Churachandpur by helicopter, Meghachandra Singh, Manipur state Congress president, said.

Violence between members of the Kuki ethnic group, who mostly live in the hills, and Meiteis, the dominant community in the lowlands, erupted on May 3 as a result of resentment over economic benefits and quotas in government jobs and education reserved for hill people.

Several rounds of peace talks between the groups have broken down and failed to completely stop violent incidents in the state governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's political party.

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