At least 160 people have been killed in clashes between the Meitei and Kuki ethnic groups. Thousands have been injured and more than 60,000 displaced in the violence that have engulfed India’s north-eastern state of Manipur, on the border with Myanmar. The violence broke out in Churachandpur, a town just south of the state capital Imphal, on May 3, following a Kuki-led tribal solidarity march in ten of the state’s sixteen districts . As the Meiti organised counter-protests and blockade, clashes spread across Manipur. Women were part of some of the mobs. More than 12000 have fled to the neighbouring Mizoram state. Just a day before the monsoon session of a parliament, a 26- second video from Manipur has triggered outrage in the whole country where three women were stripped naked, assaulted and paraded by a mob. According to the First Information Report [ FIR] filed in the case, one of the three women of a family was gang raped while a mob of 800-1000 men killed her brother and father on May 4. Ministry of Home Affairs [MHA] officials have informed that Central Bureau of Investigation [ CBI ] will probe Manipur viral video case. The opposition in order to corner the Modi government and make the Prime Minister address the issue which has rocked the Monsoon session of Parliament since it began on 20 July, filed a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha.
After nearly three-month-long ethnic violence in Manipur, the lines of division have become sharper than ever with both communities expressing mistrust, anger and even hate against the other. In this atmosphere of hate Tehelka exclusively caught hold of a 28 year old Manipuri youth, Bikramjit Rajkumar from Meitei community, who claimed to have saved many Kuki’s lives in Imphal when the ethnic clashes broke out on May 3. Bikramjit comes from IT sector with his office in Gurugram. His company is still following work from home method, due to which Bikramjit is operating from Imphal. Apart from his job, Bikramjit is also a secretary of a society ‘Youth Welfare Front’ registered in 1978 in Imphal west. In an exclusive conversation with Tehelka over phone, Bikramjit spoke in length on various issues, including how he saved Kuki’s lives when violence broke out on May 3. ? How interfaith couples are finding it difficult to save their marriages in Manipur ? How he saved the lives of his relatives , caught in the violence in another worst- affected district, Churachandpur, dominated by Kuki. The excerpts of Bikramjit’s edited interview are given below.
How you saved Kuki’s lives on May 3 when violence broke out ?
When violence broke out on May 3. We through our society ‘Youth Welfare Front’ issued notices in our locality of Imphal area that anyone from kuki community living in our area should contact us or the government for the save exit from the Meitei dominated area. After this we discovered around 50 members of Kuki community living in our locality. They were mostly students, businessmen and ones who are doing jobs. We took them in our society cars and safely dropped them at Manipur Rifle [MR] battalion. From their they were sent to the relief camps, Churachandpur or outside Manipur. We used four-five cars of our society to ferry kuki. If we would have not rescued these kukis from our Meitei dominated area, they would have been killed. The Kukis we rescued were living in our area on rent. My society ‘Youth Welfare Front’ is being dominated by Meitei.
How you saved your relatives lives ?
After the violence broke out on May 3. My Relatives from Churachandpur, Kuki dominated area were stranded in violence. They had no option but to run from pillar to post to save their lives. Five members of the family including an old man remained in the violence hit area for many days. We were everyday following up with the army asking them when they will going to rescue them. We were calling police every now and then for the update of our relatives. Gradually Army started rescuing my relatives. From May 5 to 11 all my relatives came out from the violence hit Churachandpur area safely. But not before their house were demolished in the violence. Presently all five members are in the relief camp. They have lost their business, jobs with nothing ahead except for a dark lane.
Are Meiteis and Kukis divided like India -Pakistan ?
Yes, Meitei and Kukis are divided like India-Pakistan in Manipur. In Churachandpur, which is Kuki dominated area Meitei cannot enter the area. Otherwise he or she will be killed. Likewise in Meitei dominated area Kuki cannot enter otherwise they will get killed. We have houses in Kuki area but we cannot visit our houses, we can only see them from the distance. There is an area in Manipur where after the violence Border Security Force [ BSF ] has done fencing, dividing the area of Meitei and Kuki debarring them from visiting each other area to avoid any eventuality.
What you have to say on Manipur’s poppy cultivation ?
Yes, Manipur has been neglected by all the political parties. There is a poppy cultivation going on in Manipur since long, but no political party has taken any step to stop it. Manipur has become a hub of drug peddlers. Before the violence broke drugs pouch were easily available on the Imphal and Churachandpur streets. But after the violence drug has not only become hard to get but have also become costly. Many friends of mine have become drug addicts. Living in drug rehabilitation camps. Their families has been ruined.
Does Meitei looted arms and ammunition from the police stations ?
Yes I confessed that Meitei looted arms and ammunition from the police stations, but their reason is different. When violence broke out and para military forces came in. They failed to control the violence. Instead they were seen as they have come in Manipur on holidays. So to protect themselves Metei looted around 4k arms from the police stations for their safety. And they have so far returned around 1500 to 2k arms back to the police stations.
After Metei-Kuki divide. Are you still in contact with your Kuki’s friends ?
Meitei and Kuki were living together before the violence in Manipur. But after the violence the divide between the two communities has widen up. With the result that I had five kuki friends, all school time. But now after this bloodshed all have stopped taking up my phone.
Future of interfaith couples in Manipur ?
There are many interfaith couples in Manipur. Where Metei is married to Kuki and vise versa. All interfaith couples are feeling insecure about their lives and marriages after Metei-Kuki clashes in Manipur. They are not sure whether they will remain alive or not.? Whether their marriages will remain intact or not.? With threat to their lives many interfaith couples have left Manipur to other cities like Delhi and Pune. And one who are still in Manipur are hiding at some unidentified locations with a constant fear of being killed if found.