Victims of the three-month-long ethnic strife in Manipur are demanding that the imbroglio be resolved so that they can go home. They have currently been housed in cramped makeshift relief camps. Among them, some victims do not want to shift to the government-provided temporary accommodation; they say if they move to these pre-fabricated dwelling units, they will never be able to return to their homes
Some inmates from the Tengnoupal and Churachandpur districts said that they “do not have faith in the state government’s assurance on rebuilding their homes.” They are residing at the Thongju Kendra Relief Camp set up at Ideal Girls College in Akampat of Imphal East district.
Sanatambi, who hails from the India-Myanmar border town of Moreh said, “It has been more than three months that we are living in relief camps. We need our home back. How long are we going to stay here? Our people were murdered, now we need justice.”
Nganthoibi and her family, from Churachandpur, say they do not want to stay at the relief camp in “inhuman conditions.”
“I have a six-member family — husband, 7-month-old baby, father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law — all are here in the relief camp. On May 3, our house was burnt and we could collect nothing while fleeing from the place. We have lost everything in this clash,” she says.
“We want to go back to our own houses. We don’t trust the government, we don’t know for how long it will be in those temporary locations. We are tired of the government’s assurances and don’t see any hope from them,” Nganthoibi added.
She also claimed that despite assurances from the administration of shifting them to their homes in future, several inmates in the relief camp are willing to move to temporary houses constructed by the government at different locations.
Ingobi Singh, from Moreh, said, “All the Marwaris and Punjabis have fled the town, and the Tamilian people left after this present violence began. In the case of Moreh, there has been no town committee election for the last 10 years.”
He added, “We want to go back to Moreh to our homes. This town was the No 2 in revenue collection for Manipur after Imphal. If this violence continues, India is going to lose heavily. The BJP is responsible for the situation that Manipur is witnessing today.”
Moreh is predominantly a Kuki town with a sizeable number of Tamils and other communities like Punjabis. One of the fastest growing in Manipur, it’s a multi-religious town with Christians being the majority, followed by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains.
Rajen Huiram from the hill district asked, “How long are we going to suffer like this? We appeal to the government to bring peace as soon as possible. We want to go back to our homes at Churachandpur.”
“We appeal to the government to bring peace as soon as possible. We want to go back to our homes at Churachandpur. How long are we going to suffer like this?” said Rajen Huiram (37) from the hill district.
Meanwhile, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had said on August 23 that the pre-fab houses built for the violence-affected were not a permanent arrangement; they were constructed to ease the hardship faced by those in relief camps.
Built at eight different sites, the prefabricated houses are readymade structures which are constructed off-site and then assembled at the place where the homes are proposed to be set up.
According to Singh, 400 such houses were constructed at Yaithibi Loukol in Thoubal district, 320 houses have been built at Kwakta in Bishnupur district, 400 at Sajiwa and 200 at Sawombung in Imphal East.
Since ethnic clashes erupted in Manipur on May 3, over 160 people lost their lives and several hundred others were injured; this was following a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’, that was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute a little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts. Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley.