Looking back at how Thingkangphai in CCpur was purged of indigenous Meiteis on May 3
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, September 24 2023: Sounds of gunshots woke her up and she looked outside to see her neighbours' houses going up in flames.

She hid inside the toilet.

Miscreants speaking Kuki dialect burnt her house.

When they left, she came out from the toilet, and hid inside the charred house till the next morning.

This was what L (name changed) experienced on the night of May 3 at Thing-kangphai village in Churachandpur district.

Thingkangphai is the third largest village, out of 18 villages in Chura-chandpur district where Meitei used to reside before May 3 .

In the village, there were about 130 Meitei households with a population of over 680 .

Sadly, all these villagers have been forced out of their houses and they are now taking shelter in relief camps set up across Manipur.

All of their houses have been looted and burnt.

The looting and burning of the Meitei houses by Kuki miscreants at Thingkangphai village started in the evening after protesters who were taking part in ATSUM's Solidarity March went on a rampage destroying and burning Meitei houses at Torbung and adjoining villages in Bishnupur district at around 3 pm of May 3 .

While all the violent clashes that took place on the evening of May 3 at several places across the valley districts including Imphal were a reaction of the ATSUM's Solidarity March that went rogue at Torbung, the violence at Thingkangphai has another angle--a trouble that had been brewing since a couple of days before May 3 .

The trouble--mixture of a Meitei religious procession, a commotion that allegedly led to an automobile accident, and desecra- tion of a Temple and a Meitei flag.

The series of events presented here are all according to a complaint that has been filed with the Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC).

The complaint contains testimonies of victims/displaced people.

Lai Haraoba procession-a Meitei religious ritual Thingkangphai village that had a sizeable Meitei population before May 3 still practices chieftain system despite the village falling under survey/revenue land under the notification of Manipur Government.

The village is dominated by the Kukis and it shares borders with Kawnpui and Tualnuam villages, which are dominated by Mizos and Vaipheis.

In the last week of April recently, the Meiteis at Thingkangphai village celebrated "Lai Haraoba"-a religious festival annually held to please Meitei deity Ibudhou Pakhangba.

On the afternoon of April 23, Meitei residents of Thingkangphai Mayai Leikai prepared 'Lalup' (gifts) to be offered before Ibudhou Pakhangba as a part of the Lai Haraoba festival.

Between 2.30 pm an 3 pm, the Meitei residents in traditional religious attire started a procession carrying the 'Lalup' on Tiddim Road.

On Tiddim road, Meitei elders requested a Kuki man (from Tuibong) who came in a car with a girl passenger to drive his car slowly for safety and smooth passage of the religious procession.

Ignoring the request, the Kuki man tried to "disturb" the procession by "blocking the road" .

The intent of the Kuki man provoked the Meitei youths and a heated argument ensued.

Later, the Meitei youths asked the Kuki man to take over the march.

At this, the Kuki man drove his car in "high speed" and resultantly, hit a drainage on the side of the road.

Later in the evening, Churachandpur police summoned the Meitei residents based on a complaint filed by the Kuki man.

The Meiteis were asked to bear the cost of repairing the damaged car.

On the evening of April 29 at around 5.30 pm, a group of Kuki men numbering about 7 to 10 stormed the residence of a Meitei at Thingkangphai village.

The Kuki men destroyed the tin sheets which were used to fence his Laishang (Temple).

They even uprooted a pole that had a Meitei flag near the Temple and shouted "Si Imphal nat-te New Lamka-ni" (This is not Imphal, this is New-Lamka).

The Kuki men "warned" the Meitei man of dire consequences if he tried to erect the flag again.

They also warned him not to take any photographs of the destroyed fencing.

Later at around 8 pm, many Kuki men and women stormed his residence.

The Kuki men told him "Noi-na touri ba se yam-na lan-le" (What you are doing is very wrong) .

The Kuki men informed him that the incident (vandalising of fencing and uprooting of the flagpole) has already been circulated on Facebook, and asked him "how the incident that took place in his home has surfaced on social media" .

They charged him of giving bad names to Thingkangphai village.

After a while, a police team came and enquired about the incident.

He narrated the incident and later, Superintendent of Police (SP), Churachandpur arrived and dispersed the Kuki men and women.

This incident didn't trigger violence, but it did reflect the "attitude" of the Kuki residents of the area towards Meitei religious procession held in Churachandpur, Meitei flag and Temples.

On April 29, the Kuki men vandalised only the fence of the Temple and the flag, but a few days later on May 3 evening, no warning would come and not only the fences and flags, but all Meitei houses and places of worships, Temples in Churachandpur would be razed to the ground and levelled.

Thingkangphai on May 3

On the afternoon of May 3 at around 4 pm, one Kuki man called Jammang asked Meitei leaders to attend a discussion at the house of Thingkangphai village chief.

As informed, the Meitei leaders attended the discussion.

The Kuki men who were present in the discussion said that they were waiting for one Jayson (another Kuki man) who had gone to Torbung to participate in the "violence" .

According to the complaint filed with the MHRC, Jayson is an alleged member of "Kuki Khanglai Lawn" who has "participated in many violent activities in the village".

As soon as Jayson returned, the Meitei residents were told to assemble at the local Church "for their own safety" .

At around 7 pm, the Meiteis residents heard loud noises--the arrival of Kuki miscreants, who would later loot, vandalise and burn the houses of Meiteis.

As Kuki miscreants gathered in strength, many of the Meitei residents fled to the nearby 46 Assam Rifles and BSF camps at Molkoi for their lives.

While there were miscreants all over trying to hurt the Meitei residents, there were a very few who did offer safe haven to some Meiteis initially but their intentions would be questioned later.

One Kuki man Lamboi offered to hide Mr X (a Meitei) and his family in his house, but fleeing Meiteis later saw Lamboi along with Solomon, Thangboi and Lalkhsilen looting properties from the shop and houses of the Meiteis.

They first "broke" a Meitei shop known as 'Rameshor shop' .

While hiding, the Meiteis heard them talking.

"They told each other in their language let's eat and take all properties" .

Some Meiteis who were hiding in their respective houses at the time saw Kukis looting without noticing their presence.

They witnessed Kuki miscreants led by Lamboi, Lunjamang, Khaijamang and others looting and torching Meitei houses.

Some Meitei residents managed to bring their vehicles when they fled to the BSF camp.

Parked in front of the BSF camp, the vehicles were later burnt down by the Kuki miscreants in front of the BSF guards who did "nothing".

On reaching relief camps, the victims have filed complaints, but police have not taken any action till date.

The Sangai Express will bring more testimonies of victims of Khumujamba and other villages in Chura-chandpur in the coming issues.

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