Narrating a tale of how Moreh was ethnically cleansed of Meiteis
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, October 15 2023: There was a huge rally of the Kuki people ostensibly against Meitei's demand for Scheduled Tribe status at Moreh on May 3 .

Shops, banks and all schools were closed, but the morning was calm like any other day.

Lai Haraoba festival-one of the largest religious festivals of the Meiteis was on, and women were busy arranging flowers and fruits for offering to Ima Kondong Lairembi-a Meitei deity.

Men were preparing for "Mukna Yendamba"- a traditional wrestling competition, usually held on the last day of Lai Haraoba.

Unaware of what lies ahead later in the day, Meiteis were excited and waiting for the rally to conclude.

The excitement, however, turned into nightmares and vanished when the sun was setting.

The revered and loved idol of Ima Kondong Lairembi was plucked from the Temple, dragged and "kicked like a football" .

This is what a complaint that has been filed with the Manipur Human Rights Commission has revealed.

Many heart wrenching violence took place in Moreh on May 3.Houses and shops were burnt.

Knife wielding men attacked Meitei men, women and children.

Some Kuki miscreants tried to burn a house while an entire family including a bedridden paralysed man was inside.

The Sangai Express has already published five stories on incidents related to violence that unfolded on May 3 in Bishnupur's Torbung, Churachandpur and Moreh.

On October 11, this paper published a story on Moreh that some say shows "a trend that has been going on since a decade at Moreh and elsewhere about a section of people forcefully changing names of places and evicting people of other communities through violence to grab and control the land for themselves" .

Many say "changing existing original names of places is a first step to lay claim on the land and later forcibly evicting people through violence is the second step to control the land" .

As promised, The Sangai Express is bringing our readers this piece about events that unfolded on May 3 at Moreh.

All the information, and stories presented here are according to the complaint that has been filed by displaced people with the MHRC.

The rally and the violence

On May 3, the Hill Tribal Council (HTC) Moreh, Kuki Students' Organisation (KSO) Moreh Block and Kuki Chief Association (KCA) Moreh Block organised a rally in the border town as was held in other tribal inhabited districts.

Testimonies of the displaced Meitei people from Moreh said the majority of the Kuki people who participated in the rally wore black clothes.

While there were no violent incidents in Moreh early in the day, videos of violence and arson at Torbung in the afternoon soon reached Moreh.

Notably, on May 3, Kuki protesters with armed men embedded in the crowd went berserk at Torbung vandalising and torching Meitei houses and shops.

As soon as the videos of the violence reached Moreh on social media, the atmosphere at Moreh turned for the worst.

"Kuki people, mostly youths, began banging electric poles."

Some displaced people claim the youths in "black dresses" shouted "Meitei Chatkhro�Meitei Yengning-de" (Go away Meitei, we don't want to see you) and also used other derogatory words.

The youths then started pelting stones at Meitei shops at Ward No 6 and immediately thereafter, they vandalised Asha Hotel and set it on fire.
They then went on a rampage and began vandalising and torching other Meitei shops and houses in Ward No 6 .

Amid sounds of gunshots, some residents heard the Kuki mob shouting "Meitei-na Lai Haraobada-da Hao-gi Jagoi Karigi Saba-no" (Why Meitei perform tribal dances during Lai Haraoba) .

The violence spread to other Meitei localities such as Moreh Prem Nagar, Moreh Bazar, Moreh Ward No 7, Moreh Heinoumakhong etc.

"Kuki youths armed with knives and sticks attacked Meitei people including women and children" .

Moreh Ward No 6

At around 5.30 pm, one Meitei businessman from Thoubal district who was staying at Luxmi Hotel came out of the hotel to have dinner at Asha Rice Hotel.

He saw some 20-30 miscreants gathering on Moreh main road (National Highway) .

The miscreants first vandalised Asha Hotel and then set it on fire.

He claims the Kuki miscreants shouted "Meitei hat-lo" (kill Meiteis) .

Not a single police personnel was on the scene, he said in his testimony.

He ran inside Nasir Hotel and hid.

The fire at Asha Hotel spread to nearby structures and he ran towards the police station.

While he was running, he noticed a blast which burnt his clothes and body.

He managed to reach the police station, and sometime after midnight, he was taken to a Assam Rifles post in an ambulance.

As Kuki miscreants started burning houses, many escaped through the backdoors and crossed Khujairok river to safety.

Many rushed to Moreh police station and police commando complex for their safety.

The police commandos rescued many Meiteis and brought them to their station.

Moreh Hospital

A group of Kuki people brought an injured man on a hand cart to Moreh Hospital.

As the man succumbed to his injury, many stormed the hospital and destroyed properties.

A Kuki man identified as Thangboi was among the miscreants who attacked Meiteis.

Some Kuki miscreants of Chavangphai were also involved in burning down Meitei houses at Turel Wangma (Ward No 7), said testimonies of the displaced Meiteis.

Some Kuki men who were attacking the minority Meiteis at Moreh were photographed/videographed and the footage had emerged on social Facebook and WhatsApp.

Moreh Khunou

At around 6-7 pm, 3-4 Kuki miscreants broke open the gate of Miss X at Moreh Khunou and began shouting "Meitei thorak-o" (Meitei, come out) .

Miss X was scared.

The miscreants shouted they had lost two men and then threatened to kill her whole family with a Kukri (knife) .

The miscreants started burning rooms of the house.

When Miss X tried to go out, the miscreants threatened to kill her and forced her to go back inside the burning house.

At the time, Miss X had her brother, paralysed and unable to move lying on a bed in a room and her sister-in-law's daughter hiding under a bed.

As fire spread from one room to another, she tried to lift her brother, but couldn't.Thinking the miscreants had left, she ran to the backyard to fetch water.

One of the miscreants charged at her and hit her with a log many times.

She escaped and ran inside the house and locked the door.

Sometime later, the miscreants left.

Miss X was bleeding profusely from her hand.

Police arrived to their rescue.

A cop carried her brother and they reached the police station.

Miss X was taken to Assam Rifles hospital and got treated.

She was among many Meiteis who were evacuated to Imphal on May 9.She was taken to a hospital for proper treatment.

Moreh Prem Nagar

On hearing news about Meitei houses being burnt by Kukis, some residents approached the Assam Rifles posted at Moreh 2nd Gate, but they were denied any help.

After a while, around 20 Kuki miscreants stormed the locality.

They first broke street lamps and then started torching Meitei houses.

A majority of the Meitei residents ran to Moreh police station while some took shelter at neighbouring Muslim houses.

Moreh Trade Centre

A team of 20 persons including students, research scholars and faculty members of Earth Science Department, Manipur University staying at Moreh Trade Centre were caught in the middle of the communal attack.

In the afternoon, they saw "huge clouds of smoke" from the windows of the trade centre.

They were rescued by the police.

On their way to the police station, they saw houses and shops burning all over the town.

Intermittent arson and looting of properties from abandoned Meitei houses and shops continued till July end.

On July 26, at around 8 am, a group of Kuki miscreants ransacked 15-16 abandoned houses of Meitei community including a forest guest house and Elora Hotel and set them on fire, following which a gun battle broke out between the armed mob and security forces.

A complaint filed with the police alleged, cadres of PDF were involved in the arson at Elora Hotel.

On July 27, 12 persons who were "directly involved" in the incident were arrested and they were brought to the Moreh police station.

"However, all the 12 persons were unexpectedly set scot-free by the Superintendent of Police, Tengnoupal district after an "assurance" was given by Kuki civil society organizations that the "12 men would be restrained from committing such crime in future" .

Along with Meitei houses, around 44 houses and six shops of the Tamil community have been burnt at Moreh.

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