To celebrate Holi, Meiteis had to take permission from Kuki chiefs, militant groups
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, September 25 2023: No Christians need to ask permi-ssion from other communities to celebrate Christmas.

No Muslims need permission to celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr.

It is a right guaranteed in any secular country.

India is a secular country and it takes pride in its "unity in diversity" .

Now, imagine the Meiteis or the Hindus seeking permission from Kuki chiefs and Kuki militant groups to celebrate Yaoshang/Holi festival and Lai Haraoba! .

Yes, you read this right.

Meiteis in Churachandpur had to take "permission" from the Kuki chiefs and the Kuki militant groups to celebrate festivals like Yaoshang-the Holi festival and Lai Haraoba.

To celebrate Holi, Meiteis had to take permission from Kuki chiefs, militant groups
To celebrate Holi, Meiteis had to take permission from Kuki chiefs, militant groups

"The Meitei residents were required to seek [Kuki] chief's permission for celebrating any festivals like Yaoshang (Holi).

Without permission, the Meiteis couldn't celebrate any festival in Churachandpur," claim persons who have been forced out and displaced from Churachandpur district.

The Sangai Express has published two stories in two days on how events unfolded at Bishnupur's Tor- bung and Waikhurok, and Churachandpur's Thing-kangphai village.

As promised, we are once again bringing our readers these testimonies of events that preceded May 3 violence and events that followed in Churachandpur.

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

Protesters taking part in ATSUM's Solidarity March went rogue in the afternoon of May 3 and went on a rampage, vandalising and burning down houses and shops belonging to Meiteis at Torbung.

Since then, the 146 days old ethnic conflict involving the SoO militants has unearthed many appalling events and ugly truths in the form of testimonies.

Like the one mentioned in the opening lines here (requiring permission to celebrate Holi), another ugly truth that has yet again surfaced is the influx and presence of illegal Myanmar Nationals in Churachandpur which a section of people claim is a "myth invented by the Meiteis" .

However, one testimony after another in the complaint filed with the MHRC has given life to this "myth" .

The displaced Meitei residents claim that some illegal Myanmar Nationals have even opened shops and restaurants in Churachandpur.

Mata & Lingsiphai: There were around 33 Meitei households with a population of more than 145 living in Mata and Ling-siphai village before May 3 .

Majority of Meitei residents were tenants of the Kukis.

The Meitei residents, however, built their own houses at their expense in the land belonging to village chiefs.

Vaiphei and Paite are the majority communities in and around the villages.

It is "quite usual" for the Meitei youths to get "threatened" if they raise any issue against the majority Kukis.

"Besides Paite and Vai-phei, there are around 40 Myanmarese households illegally living in and around Mata and Lingsiphai and some of them have even got married to local tribal people," claim displaced Meitei folks.

On May 3 at around 1.30 pm, one Kuki lady (name withheld by this paper) who was close with the Meitei residents informed them to stay alert saying "they may come under attack by miscreants" .

The Meitei residents rushed to the camp of 46 Assam Rifles located at Khuga Dam.

On the way to a relief camp from the AR camp, they saw their houses and properties completely burnt down.

Hmar Veng: There were about 19 households with around 67 Meitei residents in Hmar Veng Meitei Leikai, Churachandpur.

Vaiphei, Kom, Simte and Kuki (Thadou) are the majority communities.

"Not far from Hmar Veng, there is a private school called Bethany Christian Higher Secondary School.

Many Myanmar families including children are living illegally in this school campus," said the testimonies of the displaced people.

On May 3 at around 6.30 pm, the Meitei residents of Hmar Veng saw the burning of a Meitei house at Zou Veng.

"The tribal miscreants who had gathered near the house of Mang Haokip were encouraging each other to attack the Meiteis.

They started destroying Meitei properties" .

While some Meitei residents were hiding at neighbouring houses, some hid at EFCI Church building to save their lives.

They tried to contact the "authorities" several times, but the authorities did not respond to their call for help.

They were evacuated from the Church to Churachandpur Mini Secretariat on May 6 by security forces.

Tuibong Farm Mamang Leikai: Before May 3, there were around 30 Meitei households with a population of more than 210 .

"The Meiteis were required to seek permission from Kuki militants for celebrating festivals like Yaoshang [Holi] and Lai Haraoba.

Without such permission, the Meiteis could not celebrate any festival in Churachandpur," said the complaint filed with the MHRC.

A crematorium ground located near Khuga River where Meiteis perform last rites when there is a death in the community had been allegedly taken over by Kukis despite the Meiteis possessing patta (land document) .

"The Kukis made fake patta and then they sold the said ground.

When the Meitei residents voiced against the fake patta, the Kukis threatened [the Meiteis] of dire consequences" .

On May 3 afternoon, a majority of the Meitei residents started fleeing to safer places.

Some reached Bishnupur district via Sagang and Saiton villages.

The remaining residents who couldn't flee immediately rushed to Zou Veng where there was a larger Meitei population, but there they saw Kuki miscreants burning Meitei houses at Zou Veng.

Some rushed to Churachandpur police station for their safety.

Yaiphakol Meitei Leikai: There were around 53 Meitei households with a population of more than 235 before May 3 .

During COVID-19 pandemic, the name of the village was changed to "K Salen" by the Kukis without informing the Meitei residents.

"Kholtingthang Vaiphei became the chief of the village.

The chief imposed illegal taxes on the Meitei residents on the pretext of development.

The Meitei residents were also required to seek the chief's permission for celebrating any festivals like Yaoshang (Holi) .

Without obtaining permission from the chief, no such celebration was allowed" .

On May 3 at about 2.30 pm, a video of a truck driver being beaten up by some miscreants surfaced on Facebook and WhatsApp.

At around 3.30 pm, the residents of Yaiphakol saw vehicles transporting Kuki men towards Waikhurok and Torbung Bangla area.

On Facebook and via WhatsApp, they learnt about the Kuki miscreants vandalising Meitei houses at Torbung area.

Apprehensive of being attacked, the residents ran to the foothill of Tuikham Ching to hide themselves.

One Meitei man contacted the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Churachandpur police station on phone and sought his help, but the OC informed him of his "inability to help the Meitei residents" .

After midnight, Assam Rifles were informed and they were evacuated to 46 Assam Rifles camp.

New Bazar: There were a few Meitei residents in the New Bazar area, mostly tenants doing small business.

Mizo is the majority community in the area.

"Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) [one of the groups under SoO pact] imposed illegal taxes on Meitei residents.

Myanmar families also have shops and restaurants in New Bazar" .

On May 3 at around 7.30 pm, the Meitei residents saw Meitei houses of Khumujamba Leikai set on fire.

They hid and the next morning, Assam Rifles personnel evacuated some of them to Kangvai, from where they were further taken to Imphal.

Molnom: There were around 13 Meitei households with a population of around 53 .

Tanglei, a village in the vicinity where the Kuki community resides at present, was created in the recent past.

When the village was first created, some of the residents couldn't even speak local Kuki dialect, claims the complaint filed with the MHRC.

On May 3, some of the Meitei residents of Molnom fled to Saiton village through Hingcham Ching, and others were gathered in a Meitei house.

Kuki people from Tanglei village came to Molnom and they said Meitei residents should stay at their respective houses.

Soon after the Meitei residents returned to their respective houses, the Kuki miscreants started burning the houses.

The residents ran to 27 Sector Assam Rifles camp.

Notably, infiltration from across the border is a boiling topic amid the present Manipur crisis and it has been identified as one of the factors fuelling the conflict.

Even Union Home Minister Amit Shah has informed of this issue in the Parliament recently.

While some sections have claimed that the illegal influx of Myanmar Nationals and their settlement in the hills in Manipur is a "myth", various records and data have shown otherwise.

A Cabinet sub-committee comprising three Ministers including Tribal Affairs Minister Letpao Haokip, formed in February this year, had found as many as 2,187 Myanmar Nationals in 41 locations in the hills.

Of the total, 1,147 Myanmar Nationals were found in 13 locations in Tengnoupal district; 881 Myanmar Nationals were detected in 3 locations in Chandel district; 154 Myanmar Nationals were found in one location in Churachandpur district; 5 Myanmar Nationals were found in 24 locations in Kamjong district.

Moreover, Assam Rifles had recently reported that 718 Myanmar Nationals have been found intruding in Chandel on July 22-23 amid the present unrest in Manipur.

The State Government had then asked the Assam Rifles to push back the 718 Myanmar Nationals and clarify how and why they were allowed to cross the border into Manipur.

The Sangai Express will bring more testimonies of victims of other villages in Churachandpur in the coming issues.

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