In Delhi, Meiteis, Kukis who fled violence-torn Manipur mourn their loss, fear their future

4 months ago 18

By Milan Sharma, Aneesha Mathur: It has been close to a month since violence broke out between the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur. An uneasy calm prevails in the violence-torn state for now, but there is no telling when a house might be burnt or a shoot-out might take place. Over 2,000 kilometres away in Delhi, people belonging to the two communities have taken shelter either at relief camps or at the homes of relatives. India Today spoke to the people from both communities who have lost their homes and fled the hill state with just clothes on their backs.


A Meitei family, which is staying at their son’s house in Gurugram, narrates the initial days of the violence and how they fled from Churachandpur, the epicentre of the tension. "I came out of my home in one pair of dress,” says Chanchan Huidrom who was working at an ICICI bank in Churachandpur.

Chanchan and her parents fled from their house in Manipur and is currently staying at Gurugram.

The family, including Chanchan’s septuagenarian mother and father, lived in a relief camp in Imphal when the violence first broke out. “We felt there that one day or another, we would be killed. That’s why we didn’t care if we slept on the road or anywhere else. For the first two to three days,there wasn’t enough food to eat,” said Chanchan.

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Chanchan’s father, Chandramani, told India Today, “They burnt my two-storeyed house, looted my entire shop and burnt it down. It wasn’t easy to leave from there. My son sent me money and somehow we could get the tickets. What should I do when I go there? I can’t even live with my son. How will he fend for himself?”

His wife, Jamuna, has a broken knee and also has stones in her gallbladder. Chanchan told India Today that it might no longer be possible to get her mother operated in Manipur.


Basanta, a Meitei man who is currently living in Delhi with a relative, said police turned a blind eye when the violence started between the two communities. “My shops were burnt on the night of May 3. First they broke my shop and burnt the homes on the other side. I saw them burning it to the ground. The police did not help. My home was just around 100 metres from the police station and yet I watched as my home burned in front of my eyes,” said Basanta.

Another Meitei woman, N Kimi Devi, is a newlywed who fled Manipur with a 15-month-old infant. “When my house was burnt, the police did not help. After that we called the Assam Rifles who came after four hours to help us.”

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“When the army chief calls it ‘ethnic clashes’, it really hurts me. It’s been almost a month now. Why is the violence still continuing? Our constitutional right to life has been taken away,” said Kimi.

“Kuki friends are waving their flag in the Jantar Mantar. My house was burnt and the Army were spectators. I am not in the mood to sing the national anthem because I am so angry and frustrated. Cultivators' rights have been taken away from Meitei villages and it is the season right now,” narrated Kimi.


On the other side of the violence is the Kuki community. Several people belonging to the community have taken asylum at a relief camp set up at an abandoned school in Delhi’s Palam run by a Christian organisation.

Lialian Vaiphei fled to Delhi with just his laptop, phone and the clothes on his back. Vaiphei enjoyed the comforts of a government in Imphal, Manipur’s capital before the violence. “We had no choice but to leave,” he told India Today.

Members of the Kuki community cooking food at a relief camp in Delhi’s Palam. (India Today photo)

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Another Kuki woman, Naisiam, used to teach at a government school in Imphal. She was the only Kuki teacher in the school. “We were in the Manipur Rifles relief camp in Manipur. I went back home once to get my daughter's Class 10 exam admit card, but they had already looted my house and ransacked everything. I didn't have time to check what was stolen and what was not,” said Naisiam.

She added that she cannot go back and does not know what will happen next.

The relief camp is filled with several women and children who have fled their homes in Manipur. (India Today photo)

Another school teacher, Liam Haokip, taught at a school in Bishnupur. His school was looted and then burned a week later. “The Meiteis promised us nothing would happen. We have a mutual understanding with them. But after two to three days later, when the situation tensed up again, the Meitei groups from Imphal came. I saw them looting the school, I recognised my own current and former students. I do not expect anything from the state government,” said Haokip.

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Reverend Mang Ngaihte, the coordinator at the EFI relief home, said the people who have fled could not go from Imphal to Churachandpur or Kangpokpi so they took flights to Delhi. “As soon as they know there is an army convoy going to the airport, they go with the convoy and stay in the Imphal airport before they move out,” he added.

“Initially the plan was that they will stay here for one to two months. Now the situation is not improving,” said Reverend Mang Ngaihte.

As members of the two communities take refuge in Delhi, there is little hope for a peaceful resolution as tension between them only seems to increase with every passing day.