Manipur is experiencing a humanitarian crisis, the state is burning, people are desperate for help, internet services have been blocked and zilch medical support is available to the stranded people at the moment. The state has been witnessing ethnic clashes since the 3rd of May 2023.
In the first official toll, the state government says 60 lives were lost in ethnic clashes in Manipur. These clashes led to a lot of destruction for the residents of the state. Members of the afflicted Kuki and Meitei communities are left with a sense of helplessness and resentment as thousands of people continue to be uprooted in Manipur, unsure of what is in store for them in the future.
The Mooknayak reached out to the people belonging to both the Kuki and Meitei communities to get a better understanding of what exactly has been going on in the state and how the events have been unfolding after the violence broke out.
“Churachandpur district has 12 villages that are dominated by Meitei community people, and every single house from these areas was burned down including my own. There are no traces left of these homes,” said Hanglem Chanu who resided in Khumujamba of Churachandpur district.
She recalls that at the time when violence broke out she along with almost thousands of other Meitei women and children were hiding at her uncle’s place. She added, “Our men were trying to save us, were doing everything to make sure that we were safe. After a day of violence, we were rescued by Indian Army from the violence-hit area.”
The valley area in Manipur is largely inhabited by Meiteis, while the hill areas are dominated by tribals-mainly Kukis.
Chanu had grown up with the tribes and always had been on good terms with them also says that the majority of Kuki people are innocent, they are also suffering in Imphal just because some of their people initiated this violence.
Shobachandra, a teacher in Manipur belonging to the Meitei community talked to The Mooknayak and spoke about the struggles people are facing in the army camps waiting for themselves to be evacuated as soon as possible.
“An army truck that has the occupancy of 10-15 people was filled with almost 50 people and we were asked to stay put as the young tribal people were out there creating a ruckus. The roads were filled with angry mobs. But at the same time, some of our tribal sisters came in support of us saying we should not harm Meitei people as our own tribal people are there stuck in Imphal”- Shobachandra
Speaking about the facilities in the Assam Riffles army camp in Churachandpur Shobachandra tells us that there are large numbers of people stuck in camps hailing from different localities. Basic medicines aren’t available to us as there are many people who are diagnosed with some illness be it diabetes or blood pressure problems. It is going to be a big problem if we stay here for a long as there are no proper facilities for food, clean water, and medication.
People staying in camps also allege that there is a constant flow of misinformation provided about the evacuation process. It is difficult for these people to stay in camps as their family is scattered in different places. Some of them got evacuated from the state while some are stuck in different camps.
‘No evacuation plans for Tribal people- 90 Kuki people inside morgues declared dead’
The Mooknayak spoke to Luaisangmuan who is currently in Imphal and belongs to Kuki Community. He described the situation as grim and unprecedented. Imphal and Churachandpur districts have been the epicenters of ethnic clashes that broke out between the two groups.
“There are a lot of Kuki people stranded in Imphal and as far as I can see there is no evacuation process in place for them. We are running out of food and basic necessities. I spoke to a doctor in the nearest facility and he said that almost about 90 Kuki people have died because of the violence,” stated Luaisangmuan.
In further conversation, he says that there are rumors that every Kuki people's house is being tracked down and some of them are being killed in front of their children. Kuki people are reported missing, some of them are beaten to death and nobody is helping them.
He alleged that the “Kuki people's death count is rising as compared to the ones from the Meitei community as they are being protected by the army people.”
“On the 7th of May there was news around the corner that Meitei people are being evacuated after which tribal community women came out to check if this is true or not and they were shot at by the army people as they were given the shoot at sight order by the state,” he stated an unfortunate event.
Luaisangmuan has little faith in the future. According to him, there cannot be peace "if the government lets its citizens die." He anticipates that the tension will continue to simmer and that vengeful behavior will continue.
Ginmuan, another person from the Kuki community alleges that Kuki people are terrified that they might be attacked by the Meitei community people. While some of them are taking shelter in the forest areas desperate to get any sort of help. The local volunteers are helping the Kuki people out here.
The violence started last week amid an uprising by native villages over aspirations for tribal recognition made by the dominant ethnic group in the state.
Meitei community members, who make up 53% of the state's population, have long demanded to be classified as Scheduled Tribes, which would grant them access to forest areas and ensure that they receive a fair share of government employment and admission to educational institutions.
The people that are already designated as Scheduled Tribes, particularly the Kukis who reside in the hill areas, are concerned that if the Meitei's demand is granted, they may lose control over their ancestral forest land.
With the exception of the periodic acts of violence, according to Minister Th Basanta, the "overall situation" in the state has greatly improved.
“With the successful placement of troops in vulnerable locations, the situation is practically under control. Security forces are always working on things like aerial surveys, flag marches, and area dominance, among other things,” he said.
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