Hundreds of Meiteis who fled Churachandpur returns home
Manipur police unjustly blamed for the loss of lives, made scapegoat

Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba *

Villagers of Phaillen packing
Villagers of Phaillen packing

More than 500 of Meitei villagers who fled their residences during the recent Manipuri tribal-dominated Churachandpur district violence have started returning home as the situation in the hill district has improved to some extent.

The scared Meitei villagers who had been living in Churachandpur district "voluntarily" chose to leave their residences after two Meitei houses were torched by agitated mob on the same night of August 31 incident in which houses of tribal MLAs and ministers including Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing were ransacked and burned down after Manipur government passed the three Bills meant to protect the indigenous people of Manipur from massive influx of immigrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal.

Meanwhile, the plight of the internally-displaced Meiteis who mostly took shelter at Moirang and at their relative's places in their own state had never been widely reported in main stream media.

Speaking to this journalist, one Anderson (name changed on the condition of anonymity), remarked the issue of Meiteis fleeing Churanchandpur town and subsequent burning down of two Meitei villagers were deliberately kept low to avoid eruption of communal violence in Manipur, including Imphal valley which occupies less than 8 % of the total land area of the state.

He continued the rampages on that fateful night had created a tremendous fear psychosis among the small Meitei community who have settled in the area for decades and belongs to poor families. He further said several rounds of blank fires could be heard that night.

Anderson, who also fled his Ccpur residence, also informed that more than 500 Meetei living in the small Meitei villages of Zovebeng Meitei Leikai, Tuibung, Ngathal, Thingangfai, Phailen and Khumbujamba left most of their properties and headed to Moirang to save their lives though no quit notices were served to the small Meitei villages.

As of now, few of the Meitei villagers have sold their lands and are in the process of purchasing land at Tera Khongsangbi in Bishnupur district currently, claimed the internally-displaced person.

Questioning in what manner and how the Churachandpur tribes been pleading and claiming that their rights are being threatened, Anderson continued that even publication of the news report about Meiteis planning to leave Churanchandpur district had yielded much intense outrages from certain sections of the dominant tribal.

As regards to the burning of two Meitei houses, Anderson reported it belonged to one Moirangthem Mani, a poor traditional drummer, and one battery repairing workshop belonging to S Mani at Saram Veng was also torched on that fateful night around 10 pm. However, few of the neighbouring tribal villagers of Moirangthem Mani did provided assistance in dousing out the fire which concluded around 12 in the midnight.

Later, the chief of Kamdou had approached Mani and told him the matter of torching the two Meitei villages should not be highlighted to the media and frontal bodies of Manipur including the tribal bodies as it would possibly create much condemnation from different bodies and possible retaliation following which it would certainly cause much trouble for the minority Meiteis living in Churachandpur area. Accordingly, Mani agreed to the "request" of the Kamdou chief who also reportedly gave Rs 3000 to him for re-construction of his home.

Ccpur police station burned
Ccpur police station burned

Has Manipur Police been unjustly blamed?

Nine lives were lost during the ensuing Churachandpur violence all of whom are attributed due to the result of firing from the police side although it was clearly established that one charred body was recovered from under the debris at the residence of Henglep MLA Manga Vaiphei when agitated mobs ransacked and torched the house of tribal MLA and ministers on September 31.

The Manipuri tribal who probably were misled with false information on the amendments of the three Bills went on rampages across Lamka town even to the extent of burning Churachandpur station of Manipur police. On that day, when mobs attacked the police station, the police personnel who were heavily outnumbered and forced to retreat inside the police station where piles of government weapons were also kept, had no option but to fire at the protesters resulting in the death of three persons.

Manipur police on their side exercised extreme restraint and had to resort to firing as their lives were endangered and government weapons kept in the police station was on the verge of being forcefully seized by the agitated tribal mobs thereby making the situation more dangerous if the weapons fall into the hands of the protesters.

While many of the tribal bodies have raised the issue that rubber bullets were used to quell down violence in valley areas, and live bullets are employed in hills, it is to be noted that the intensity and the nature of violence that occurs in the Imphal valley and the hill districts are extremely different.

There have been reports of protesters snatching guns from uniformed personnel during the Ukhrul violence while during the recent Churachandpur violence protesters had burned down police stations though it was put down. Many a times, during violent protests in the hill areas, rounds of blank fires are openly fired though such an act has never been witnessed or reported in valley area where the majority Meiteis are squeezed as the hill areas amount to 92% of the total land area of the entire Manipur.

However, it should be remembered that Manipur police is composed of officers and personnel hailing from every ethnic group of the landlocked state whose lifelines depend on territories passing through tribal-dominated areas infested with tribal militants. Accordingly, there is no reason to assume that Manipur police is anti-tribal oriented or pro-Meiteis. Infact, many of the top level officers serving in Manipur police are highly-educated tribal IPS officers.

Meanwhile, it is not even clear if Meitei personnel in the Manipur police had actually carried out the firing that led to the death of the eight persons, or as a result of some of the gun-toting tribal protesters. Also, no inquiry has been initiated against the police personnel involved in the firing at Churachandpur, raising suspicion among the common masses on who actually had ordered the police personnel to fire.

* Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba wrote this article for
The writer is a journalist, and Imphal correspondent of the Assam-based newspaper 'Asomiya Praitdin' and can be contacted at phanjching(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on November 06, 2015 and later updated on Nov 7 for correction of Sept 31 to Aug 31.

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