Manipur's Curfew Relaxed, Yet Mass Exodus Continues in Search of Safe Havens Amid Demand for Separation

The Mooknayak spoke to Saitu MLA Haokholet Kipgen on the demand for separate state and the legislator said this is the only option for his people envision in order to live as good neighbors with Manipur.
Manipur's Curfew Relaxed, Yet Mass Exodus Continues in Search of Safe Havens Amid Demand for Separation

In the wake of recent turmoil and unrest, Manipur is witnessing a gradual return to normalcy as curfew restrictions are eased, and highways are reopened, facilitating the flow of essential goods. However, a significant setback persists as internet services remain suspended, posing communication challenges for the populace.

Amidst this backdrop, a poignant trend has emerged with people from Manipur seeking refuge in other cities, compelled by a desperate search for security and livelihood opportunities. This migration underscores the lingering uncertainties and hardships that continue to grip the state, even as signs of stability begin to emerge.

Govt efforts to restore peace

In a recent  press conference, Kuldiep Singh, the Security Advisor to the Manipur government, expressed an improved state of affairs in Manipur. He asserted that there have been no untoward incidents, and both the state government and security forces are diligently striving to counterbaseless rumors.

To facilitate the verification of facts, a toll-free number, denoted as '9485280461' and titled 'Rumour Free Manipur,' has been instituted for the convenience of the general public.

Providing an update on the prevailing situation, Kuldiep Singh shared that a total of 738 FIRs have been lodged, leading to the arrest of 30 individuals in connection with the violence. Of the 1,070 stolen weapons, 456 have been successfully recovered.

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The death toll currently stands at 73, with 41 fatalities directly linked to the ongoing violence. The number of injured individuals is 243, while arson cases have reached a staggering 1,813, as per Singh's report.

Meanwhile, the Manipur government has assured improvement in the situation. 

As a result of the closure of NH2 Imphal-Dimapur Road, trucks transporting essential commodities are traversing NH37. Under escorts, some trucks from the Jiribam region have successfully arrived in Imphal.

Authorities assured redistribution of essential commodities, to the hill districts. 

The government has commenced the transport of essential goods to Churachandpur, accompanied by adequate security measures, officials said. Specific measures have been implemented in areas with mixed populations or peripheral locations, involving the deployment of substantial security forces.

A dialogue process, involving community leaders, has been initiated to foster peace and harmony within the state.

In search of sanctuary & security in Delhi

As the state of Manipur endeavors to regain equilibrium with the relaxation of curfew and the resumption of highway traffic, enabling the transportation of essential goods to the populace, the profound wounds inflicted by the violent clash a fortnight ago will require a protracted duration to convalesce.

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A considerable number of individuals are migrating from Manipur to Delhi and other states in search of sanctuary and security. The people in these generous states are exerting their utmost efforts to provide succor to their fellow Manipuri brethren. 

Pastor Letlal from Evangelical Fellowship of India,  in conversation with The Mooknayak, shed light upon the plight of the people who, accompanied by their families, have flocked to Delhi in quest of a safe refuge. The organisation has set up a temporary centre to provide them food and shelter. 

"While we are cognizant that our capacity to offer solace and shelter is transitory, we endeavor to furnish temporary accommodations and sustenance to those arriving in Delhi seeking aid and succor. Our dedicated team is diligently liaising with benevolent people who graciously offer spare rooms to accommodate these vulnerable individuals in dire need of care and support," Pastor Letlai said.  

He further added that this predicament is indeed a grave concern. Stripped of their garments and documents, these displaced individuals find themselves disoriented in an unfamiliar metropolis. While those with secure government employment may eke out a livelihood, the destitute, lacking gainful occupation, shall undoubtedly face arduous challenges in sustaining themselves in a metropolis as exorbitantly priced as Delhi. 

"We can only hope that tranquility and normalcy are promptly restored by divine intervention, enabling these distressed individuals to return to their homes in due course. We would extend counseling to these people and convince them to return as survival in alien lands would be even difficult" the pastor said. 

Struggling for food & medicines at relief camps in Manipur

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) is seeking financial assistance from people to provide for the thousands of people living in pitiful conditions in various relief camps.

Mangcha Thangzom, the convenor of ITLF told The Mooknayak about the sorrows of the people in these camps.

"We don't want help from the state government. How can we accept help from those who have inhumanly attacked our men, women and children, torched our homes and left our people homeless and helpless? Thangzom cried in despair.

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There are hundreds of people even government servants , engineers and professionals living in the space crunched camps with their families. Somewhere there are 200, somewhere 500 or even 100 as per the space available but as many as 6845 people are in camps in his area, Thangzom claimed. He said the organisation is working with voluntary organisations and some Mizo associations to arrange rice , pulses and other edible items for the people.

"The state has control over the communication media, they are spreading all kind of false stories and misleading the people however we have lost faith in the state machinery and we do not trust them at all" Thangzom said who had even contested but lost the state assembly elections in 2017. 

Demand For Separate Administration / State 

A collective voice has emerged among the tribal legislators in Manipur, as ten out of the twenty representatives  jointly issued a statement advocating for a separate administration for tribal communities. Notably, two ministers from the ruling N Biren Singh-led government, Letpao Haokip and Nemcha Kipgen, have also expressed their support by affixing their signatures to the statement.

The signatories encompass a diverse group of legislators. Apart from the ministers, the list includes Saitu (ST) MLA Haokholet Kipgen, Churachandpur MLA LM Khaute, Tipaimukh MLA Ngursanglur Sanate, Henglep MLA Letzamang Haokip, and Saikot MLA Paolienlal Haokip. Furthermore, Saikul MLA Kimneo Haokip Hangshing and Singngat MLA Chinlunthang Haokip are representatives of the Kuki People's Alliance. 

The Mooknayak spoke to Saitu MLA Haokholet Kipgen on the demand for separation, and the legislator said this is the only option he and his people see, to live as good neighbors.

The MLA told the Mooknayak "the violence inflicted by the mob spared no one, targeting pastors, women, children, and even government employees. The extent of terror and fear instilled in the people is so profound that, despite the cessation of violence, doctors and nurses are unwilling to return to Imphal."

This pervasive sense of terror has created an atmosphere of apprehension and insecurity, impeding the restoration of normalcy in the region.  He also said that a fellow MLA Vungjagin Valte, from the Thanlon constituency has suffered critical injuries during an attack on his vehicle in Imphal on May 4, and had to be subsequently airlifted to New Delhi for medical treatment.

Manipur's Curfew Relaxed, Yet Mass Exodus Continues in Search of Safe Havens Amid Demand for Separation
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The legislator said that presently some 25 to 30 thousand people are displaced from their homes and taking shelters in camps and other places . He also said that it is up to the Indian Goverment to grant the demand for separate statehood , however the tribal leaders are holding talks and discussions with various groups,  bringing together community leaders and civil society organizations. The objective is to strategize and mobilize support for their demand.

The Ethnic Conflict : Valley vs Hill

In the state of Manipur, the Imphal Valley holds a central position, predominantly inhabited by the non-tribal Meitei community. This community comprises 60 percent of the state's overall population and is represented by 40 out of the 60 legislators in the state Legislative Assembly.

In contrast, the hill districts of Manipur are home to over 35 percent of the tribal population. However, only 20 legislators represent these tribal communities in the state assembly. This disparity in representation has led to allegations from the tribal groups, who claim that the Meitei community enjoys a demographic and political advantage. They argue that the Meiteis are more advanced academically and in various other aspects compared to the tribal people of the state.

The tribal population expresses concerns about granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meitei community. They fear that this move would result in a loss of job opportunities for the tribal people. Additionally, there is apprehension among the tribals that if the Meiteis are classified as ST, they would be allowed to acquire land in the hills. This, in turn, raises the fear of displacement and losing their ancestral lands among the tribal communities.

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