‘No grudges’: Meiteis, Kukis fleeing clashes in Manipur share camp | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘No grudges’: Meiteis, Kukis fleeing clashes in Manipur share camp

By, Pallel (kakching)
May 09, 2023 03:49 AM IST

Pallel is unique, in that it is the only camp where families belonging to both Meitei and Kuki communities have been accommodated.

After surviving ethnic violence roiling his home town in Manipur and spending restive nights at a relief camp for several days, 26-year-old Manish Irom finally felt a moment of relief on Monday night when he arrived at the Assam Rifles headquarters at Pallel, about 47 kms from state capital Imphal. He was part of the 450 Meitei tribal men, women and children who reached the camp on Monday and shifted into barracks.

Several Kukis arrive at the Assam Rifles headquarters at Pallel, in Kakching town of Manipur, on Monday.
Several Kukis arrive at the Assam Rifles headquarters at Pallel, in Kakching town of Manipur, on Monday.

Also read: 60 killed, 1,700 houses burnt: Manipur CM calls for calm

“I am relieved to have arrived here. The violence I witnessed on the night of May 3 will always be the scariest moment of my life. I can never forget that. I cannot sleep when I think about that night,” Irom said.

Such camps have sprouted up all over the northeastern state that’s been rocked by clashes since last Wednesday. But Pallel is unique, in that it is the only camp where families belonging to both Meitei and Kuki communities have been accommodated. The barracks of the two groups – which have targeted each other in several parts of the state as simmering resentment spilled over into violence last week – are separated by less than a kilometre, all within the same compound.

Colonel Abhimanu Singh, whose men have been ferrying people from violence-hit areas, credited the communities for the unique arrangement. “Bringing the two communities to the same camp in spite of the fact that they are considered to be in a state of communal war became possible only because we could integrate the leaders of all communities and hold several rounds of meetings with them,” Singh, who is in-charge of the camp, said.

“The first meeting took place even before the violence started (anticipating that something may happen). And confidence building exercise had to be intensified because rumours outnumbered the actual number of attacks (during the clashes). The Kukis and Meiteis leaders met for the first time at Pallel police station on Sunday evening which made today’s development possible,” he added.

Clashes first broke out last Wednesday in Churachandpur town after tribal Kuki groups called for protests against a proposed tweak to the state’s reservation matrix, granting scheduled tribe (ST) status to the majority Meitei community. Violence quickly engulfed the state where ethnic fault lines run deep, displacing thousands of people who fled burning homes and neighbourhoods.

The state is still picking up the pieces. At Pallel, a sense of disbelief and apprehension looms over the residents, who have been ripped apart from their homes and are scared of returning as tensions run high.

Aheibam Thoiba, a 29-year-old contractual driver for the customs, was among the Meiteis who was brought to the camp on Monday. “I was returning home from Imphal on May 3 when I was attacked. I saw three or four people die. No place seemed to be safe. However, I feel relieved that the army has taken up the exercise. I want peace to return,” he said.

When asked how he reacted to the presence of Kukis in the same camp, he said he held “no grudges against any particular tribe”.

On the other side of the base, Meiboi Gangte, a nurse at Imphal’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Institute of Science, alleged that the girls and boys in the institute’s hostel were attacked on Friday night. “The police did not come to help us. Three females were beaten unconscious. I fled from the hostel and have been hiding in an Army relief camp since then,” she said.

M Rameshwar Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker from Kakching, also arrived at the army base but rejected charges that the state’s ruling party was responsible for the violence. “The incident happened because emotions went haywire. Certain factors went out of control. How can they blame the BJP for that?” he asked.

Also read: 'They are dangerous': Mamata Banerjee slams BJP over Karnataka election, Manipur violence

Located in Chandel district, Pallel serves as an ideal place for such relief camps, said an army officer, requesting anonymity. “However, we don’t want the Kukis and the Meiteis to face each other immediately. That’s why we have decided to keep them in separate accommodations,” he added.

The army also evacuated 89 high school students of Manipuri origin from Nagaland and brought them to the Minuthong transit camp on the outskirts of Imphal town. “They were brought from Kakching district and will be sent back to Dimapur tonight,” Singh said.

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