Manipur violence survivors stories; No home to return;No safety

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Manipur violence survivors stories; No home to return;No safety

GUWAHATI: Ten days have passed since Manipur’s worst communal clashes broke out, but the memories of those who fled its capital Imphal to escape the violence are still raw and painful.

Many survivors who have fled to Guwahati to stay with relatives say their homes have been destroyed during the violence and they have nowhere to return to.
Their stories are full of loss and deep sorrow due to torture, loss of their homes and the difficult time spent in relief camps. Some of them even described being locked in their homes with mobile phone flashlights as the only source of light.
In Manipur, 60 people have been killed so far in the clash between Meiteis and Kukis. It left thousands homeless, homes razed to the ground and synagogues destroyed.
Gina, who is in her late 50s, said she was among the “lucky” few to flee violence-torn Imphal and was almost resigned to her fate. She witnessed violent ethnic clashes in her home state for the second time in her adult life.
A younger Kan Zhou said he and family members were virtually living a “homeless” existence. His family of four does not know where to go back to because their house was burnt down during the violence.
Mimi, a young woman, said she could not even imagine returning to her home in Imphal. Her husband is still in troubled Churachandpur, where violence first erupted on May 3 while at work. She is left to take care of her young daughters in another city.
All of them, whom a PTI reporter met in Guwahati, hail from Churachandpur but stay in Imphal for work. Their names have been changed according to their wishes.
Violence broke out in Churachandpur during a rally demanding ST status for the Meiteis, the dominant ethnic group in Manipur.
“I first witnessed the ethnic conflict in Manipur in 1997. I was a newlywed then living in my native district of Churachandpur,” Gina told Media, fear and nostalgia on her face were prominent.

“This time a cousin alerted us on the evening of May 3 and asked us to take safe shelter. But my family and I did not heed and spent that night at our Meitei neighbour’s house.
By the next morning, the situation had worsened and Jenna and her three-member family decided to take immediate shelter in a CRPF camp. Even the breakfast he had cooked for the family was left unfinished.

When we arrived at the camp around 11 am on May 4, thousands were already there. Many more people kept coming. We slept on the grass under the open sky because the rooms were so full that a stampede was likely at any moment.
“The toilets quickly ran out of water. Food was limited. We panicked when some nearby locals belonging to another community tried to attack the camp. When they were stopped, they hit electric poles and abused us to intimidate us,” said Gina, who like her husband is a government employee.
Kahn said that he left home on the night of May 3 with his wife and two children and took shelter at his brother’s residence. He later took refuge in a CRPF camp.
“We left without anything, not even a change of clothes. We never thought things would get this bad,” he said.

What shocked Kahn was the news that a prominent figure in his neighborhood allegedly ransacked his house and later set it on fire.
“My Meitei’s friends who live in the neighborhood informed me that my house was first looted and then set on fire on May 5. They were helpless because if they tried to interfere in any way, they would be killed and targeted,” he said.

Kahn lamented that two days after the violence broke out, government inaction led to the burning of his house.

“I have a job there. My eldest child, who is about four years old, has just started school. Now if I want to return, where should I go?” she asked, her voice plaintive.
Mimi, along with her children and domestic workers, had holed up in a room in her house as her residence in a high-security area of ​​Imphal was pelted with stones for nearly an hour on May 3.

“We spent the night at a neighbor’s place. Since May 4, we have been confined to our own house, cooking and eating by the light of our mobile phones. We somehow managed to reach the airport on May 7 and here at our home. Flew on tickets arranged by relatives.
Her husband is on duty in Churachandpur, about 65 km from Imphal, and her two daughters are constantly asking for their father.

They asked me why their father did not come to save them. I told them that he had sent men but they were attacked on the way. We are hoping to meet with him again soon,” he added.
Almost all those who fled Manipur blame the political leadership for the ethnic riots.

“Demand for right to land and reservation are the main issues. Politicians are using policy of divide and rule to add to it. How will there be peace if leaders start dividing their own people?” asked Gina.

“The political leadership is to blame. We’re burning out,” Kahn said.

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