“There Is Nothing Left For Us To Go Back To”
Thousands flee Manipur, homeless
As the violence continues in Manipur, people have been leaving the state to seek refuge in various parts of India. In Delhi, there is an influx of people from Manipur who were forced to take shelter at different places. Many people have lost their houses and are afraid to return to what they used to call home.
Dr Paul Noki, a resident of Manipur’s Imphal has left his home and shifted to Delhi. Speaking to The Citizen he said that he can never go back to his home. “I have to start my life over in my mid-40s. Imagine how difficult it is going to be for us,” he said, adding “Our homes are destroyed, there is nothing left for us to go back to.”
Dr. Noki said that on May 3 he along with his family were on their way to church when they were told to hide in their homes. The next day violence escalated to a level where he was forced to leave his house along with his two children.
“We literally ran for our lives. I only picked up my wallet, my certificates and woke up my sleeping children. There was no help from the police authorities. When we went to the refugee camp near our village, we were not safe even then. So I decided to somehow leave and come here,” he said.
Leaving home has not only been difficult, it has taken a toll for Dr. Noki and his family who said they won’t be able to go back home ever again. His two children had to be admitted in schools here in Delhi and admissions are difficult.
“One of my children is in class 10 and will be taking the board exams, an admission for him is really hard. The other child has gotten admission in a Gurugram school. We had to start over with our lives,” Dr. Noki said.
He belongs to the Kuki community and had come to attend a solidarity protest at Jantar Mantar on Saturday. Civil societies in Delhi came together in solidarity with Tribal communities that have been facing violence in Manipur since May 3.
Manipur is still burning as clashes continue in the Valley, locals say there has been “no relief from the state as well as the government”. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United States and spoke about democracy, there has been no word from him about the Manipur crisis.
There has been resentment from the Tribal Kuki community, who have been majorly targeted in the violence. There has been an influx of refugees from the Valley in Delhi and other parts of the country.
On Saturday, hundreds of Manipuris along with members of various civil societies spoke out against the violence and discussed what the future might hold for the Valley. The peaceful protest was held by a conglomerate of 40 organisations.
The speakers from each of these civil society groups conveyed their heartfelt condolences and sorrow over the ethnic violence that has so far killed 120 people, injured over 400 others and displaced some 50,650 men, women and children since it first broke out on May 3.
Speaking to The Citizen, Dr. Lamtinthang Haokip, a social activist from Manipur said that Manipur is still in hostile condition, where returning to normalcy still seems far-fetched.
“If at all people, the Chief Minister of the state, or the concerned administration, the Prime Minister was concerned enough for the people of India, they could have controlled it in the initial stage,” he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence is deafening, said community members.
Dr. Hoakip added that their only wish is that normalcy returns in the state. “The divide is so deep rooted now that both the groups can not settle down unless the chief minister of Manipur steps down or unless the Prime Minister intervenes. He can not be silent anymore and his silence further aggravated the situation in Manipur,” he added.
The Tribal groups are also calling the violence a pre-planned conspiracy, averring that the idea was to attack them from the beginning. “All this was pre-planned. Had we known we were going to be attacked, we might have prepared ourselves.
“Over time, there is a realisation that this was a pre-planned movement against the Kuki community. Our houses were also marked before the violence. Prior to this they had also taken away our licensed gun,” Dr. Noki said.
Dr. Hoakip while calling it a “pre-planned ethnic violence against the tribal groups by the majority groups” alleged that the majority groups are “hand in glove with the chief minister”. “If this was not a state sponsored violence the situation would not have been the same,” he added,
Echoing the same sentiments, human rights activist and former IAS Officer Harsh Mander, who also came in solidarity with the groups, said it is disturbing to see the events unfolding in Manipur.
“As I have been in a government job, I can say that if any kind of violence continues for more than a few hours then you have to understand that it is only happening because the government wants it to happen,” he said.
Mander added that in a small state like Manipur when the violence has escalated for over 50 days it only means that the government in power who can stop this, does not want to do so. “Someone from the state told me that the people are not understanding that whatever is happening there will also take place in the whole country tomorrow,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh on Sunday briefed Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi about the "evolving situation" in Manipur. Singh reportedly said the state and central governments have been able to control the violence to a "great extent".
Singh, who arrived in the national capital from Imphal this morning, went to meet Shah at his Delhi residence.
"Called on Hon'ble Union Home Minister, Shri @AmitShah Ji in New Delhi today and briefed about the evolving situation on the ground in Manipur.
“Under Amit Shah Ji's close supervision, the State and Central Govt have been able to control the violence to a great extent in the past week," he tweeted. Singh said there has been no report of casualties since June 13 due to the violence.
He said the Home Minister assured him that the central government will take all possible steps to bring back normalcy in Manipur.
The chief minister said Shah "advised us to strengthen our work towards achieving everlasting peace" and also sought the cooperation of every stakeholder in Manipur to ensure peace prevails.
"I was joined by BJP National Spokesperson Shri @sambitswaraj Ji, Hon'ble MP Rajya Sabha Shri @MaharajaManipur Ji and Hon'ble Speaker Shri Th Satyabrata Singh Ji," Singh added.
This comes a day after the Home Minister chaired an all-party meeting in New Delhi over the situation in Manipur. Eighteen political parties, four MPs from the northeast and two chief ministers from the region attended the three-hour meeting.
Shah told the all-party meeting that Prime Minister Modi has been monitoring the situation in violence-hit state since day one and "guiding us with full sensitivity" to find a solution to the problem.
He added that the situation in Manipur was slowly returning to normal, and not a single person has died since June 13 in the violence in the northeastern state.
The HM, also sought the cooperation of all the political parties to help defuse the situation and restore peace and trust among various communities in Manipur at the earliest.
The internet services, however, are still suspended in the state. While Delhi is witnessing many people seeking refuge, other parts of the country are witnessing the same situation.
Currently, more than 1,000 individuals, including women and children, have sought refuge in relief camps in the neighbouring regions of Assam and Mizoram.
Those seeking shelter in relief facilities are enduring extremely challenging circumstances, lacking essential provisions like food, clothing, and clean water.
“Though we appreciate the initiatives undertaken by the Home Ministry for appointing a three-member Judicial Commission offering compensation to the families of the deceased, the organisers of the protest at Jantar Mantar felt that the current rehabilitation package falls short in adequately addressing the needs of individuals who have suffered physical violence, the loss of their homes, livestock, and in some instances, their entire means of livelihood,” said Meenakshi Singh from Unity in Compassion organisation.
Speaking to The Citizen from Guwahati, Lhingmuonkim Misao, said she along with her family had left home because the situation became so tense it was difficult to survive.
Misao who has finished her Masters Degree from Manipur University is preparing for the Civil Services Exams. “I can not take any exam now because of what has happened so I will now wait a year,” she said.
Misao reached Guwahati on May 20 after living at a refugee camp in Imphal for at least 10 days. “I told my father as we have lost our homes, there is no point living here and as I want to continue my studies, we should leave,” she added.
Misao, who belong to the Kuki community lived near Churachandpur, amongst majorly Maeiti community. “We were a few Kukis living there along with Maeiti together, but everything has changed now,” she said.
She added that her house was burnt thrice as it was not fully burnt the first two times. “Everything we owned has turned to ashes. Our mental health after seeing all this is so intense I can’t even imagine it. Sometimes, it feels like we escaped death,” she said.
Going back home is not an option now, she said. “They are just waiting for us to come back so that they can kill us,” she said. Misao also mentioned that the situation at the refugee camps were horrible with water and food scarcity leaving many people to go without eating for days. “There have been days where I skipped food seeing the long lines and food scarcity,” she added.
Demanding a separate administration and President’s rule in the state, echoes what the tribal communities have collectively asked.
“I think BJP would not go for President’s rule but our people are demanding the imposition of Article 356 because they tried invoking Article 355,” Dr. Hoakip said.
Article 356 gives wide powers to the Union government to assert its authority over a state if civil unrest occurs and the state government does not have the means to end it.
While Article 355 in the Constitution of India says, “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
As the violence continued, 12 militants from a Meitei militant group were reportedly “freed by the Indian Army” as a woman-led mob surrounded them.
After a stand-off between a mob led by women and security forces that had cordoned off Itham village in Imphal East where a dozen members of militant group Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) were hiding.
The KYKL, is a Meitei militant group, was involved in a number of attacks, including the ambush of a 6 Dogra unit in 2015.
“Mob of approximately 1200- 1500 led by women & the local leader immediately surrounded the target area and prevented Security Forces from going ahead with the operation. Repeated appeals to the aggressive mob to let the Security Forces carry on with operation as per law did not yield any positive result,” an official statement was shared by the Twitter acco8nt of Spear Corps, Indian Army.
The statement called the decision a “mature decision” averring that the move showed a “human face” of the Indian Army in the ongoing unrest.
“Keeping in view the sensitivity of use of kinetic force against large irate mobs led by women and likely casualties due to such action, considered decision was taken to hand over all 12 cadres to local leader. Own Columns lifted the cordon and left the area with weapons and War Like Stores recovered from insurgents,” it added.
Meanwhile, a silent march cum condolences programme was held on Saturday under the aegis of Joint Students’ Body (JSB), Lamka, a tribal students’ body, at the temporary resting place for the Kukis killed in the present conflict, ‘Wall of Remembrances’ at Peace Ground, Tuibong, Churachandpur.
The locals, who were dressed in black, made a human chain and carried "108 dummy coffins" representing the deceased, from Churachandpur Medical College to the ‘Wall of Remembrances’.
The attendees and members of joint women organisations of the district including Zomi Mother Association, Kuki Women Union, Hmar Women Association, and Women’s Wing of the Mizo People Council placed wreaths on the coffins and paid homage to the departed.
Christian Goodwill Council Rev S. Vungminthang and his team led the condolences. The attendees made a human chain and offered flowers while the ‘Village Defence Volunteers’ made a traditional gun salute to honour the deaths.
“The Wall of Remembrance was made to preserve the unity of the tribal and to be used as a centre for protests and prayers for separate administration from Manipur,” said JSB, Lamka convenor Nengzalian Tonsing in his keynote address. He also appealed to all to unite and not deviate from their goal.
More than 120 people have lost their lives in the ethnic violence in Manipur so far.
Cover Photograph and the last at end of text : Twitter
All other photographs of protests in Delhi by NIKITA JAIN