‘We Left Home on May 3 and Ran to the Hills’: A Manipur Violence Survivor’s First Person Account (The Wire)

A survivor of the brutal ethnic violence in Manipur, which has officially killed 60 people, recounts the horror and appreciates the ties that still bind people.

By Jenny Vaipei

Churachandpur (Manipur): I am Jenny Vaipei. No, this isn’t my real name. After what I have seen unfold since May 3 evening, I am scared of revealing my identity here. There is so much fear and uncertainty around us that I am unsure as to who will take umbrage to what I say. Just like the relief camp where I am taking shelter, the cloak of anonymity will have to be my safety net for now.

Let me recall the afternoon of May 3.

I took part in the Tribal Solidarity March called by the All Tribal Students Union (ATSUM) against the demand of Scheduled Tribe status by the Meiteis. It was a peaceful rally but soon a misunderstanding between the Meitei community and my tribe, Kuki, unfolded in the Churachandpur town area, the sparks of which spread to Kangvai which was about seven kilometres from my village, Mualngat.

The nearest Meitei village, Tronglaobi, was just two kilometres from Mualngat, and this was the reason why we began getting many calls from our families who feared for our lives. They were receiving disturbing videos of inter-community anger and clashes unfolding elsewhere. The fear began to rise in us as we lived near a Meitei village.

Soon after, all the residents of my village ran to a neighbouring tribal village, Maovom, which was in the hills. We did not even have time to eat anything after a long day of marching. People who did not have vehicles had to just run into the hills and take all that they could for the night. Those who had vehicles tried their best to save the elderly, the infirm and women and their young first. We had to run without looking back to reach the nearest village which was considered safe.

Our hearts were filled with fear. That night was tough. Several elderly men, women and children took shelter in the houses of the forested hills. The rest had to spend the night in the forest because Maovom houses were already holding more than they could.

That night, the men folk and the chiefs from various tribal villages walked down to defend our villages. They also managed to negotiate with the neighbouring Meitei village leaders to maintain peace.

I can say with relief that till date, we have stuck to our promise and both sides have not attacked each other.

The pact between the tribal and non-tribal villagers assured us that the Meiteis villages (Tronglaobi Makhaleikai, Tronglaobi Awangleikai, Perakhong, Khudekpi, Leimaram and Moirang areas) would try their utmost to keep their residents from attacking the tribal villages nearby.

Those villages were Khousabung (Gangte majority); Bunglon (Gangte majority); Nadil (Thadou majority); Mualsang (Thadou majority); Khawnuam (Baite majority); Bijang Gangte (Thadou majority); Laika Mualsau (Vaiphei majority); Leisanbung (Baite majority); Mualpheipampak (Thadou majority); Maovom (Thadou majority); Mualngat (Vaiphei majority); P.Bualjang(Thadou majority); Throilok (Gangte majority); P.Geljang (Thadou majority); Phuaisanbung (Gangte majority); Pholjang (Thadou majority); and Gothol (Thadou majority).

Accordingly, the tribals would assure the same protection to the Meitei villagers.

However, as a precaution and keeping in mind what was unfolding elsewhere in the state, all the women, the children, the infirm and the elderly from the above mentioned Kuki villages took refuge in army camps or in neighbouring village camps in Churachandpur district. I was one of them…

This story was originally published in thewire.in. Read the full story here

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