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Silent Victims: The untold Story of Beeju in the Meitei and Kuki-Zo Conflict

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Silent Victims: The untold Story of Beeju in the Meitei and Kuki-Zo Conflict

By – Dr Onkholun Haokip
In conflict situations, the suffering extends far beyond the immediate parties involved. Neutral individuals and communities experience significant hardships, including economic difficulties, transportation disruptions, and human rights violations. Yet, a rarely told aspect of conflict is the suffering of animals. Here is the untold story of how conflict impacts animals, with a focus on my personal experiences of Meitei and Kuki-Zo conflict in Manipur. In the wake of the conflict on May 3, 2023, my primary concern was to protect my family and villagers from Meitei radicals, referred to as “men in black” due to their black shirts marked with red paint on their back, later identified as Arambai Tenggol. To safeguard my family, my wife and five small children, I relocated them to a safer place in the jungle along with other women and children from my village.
During this period, my loyal dog Beeju and I stayed behind to guard our village alongside innocent young volunteers. On our first night, Beeju’s barking echoed through the silent night, devoid of music and the usual church services. Fearing for our safety, next day I decided to relocate Beeju to the jungle with the women and children.
Despite traveling 5 kilometres on a rough road and leaving Beeju behind, she followed our vehicle back to the village. To keep her safe, I locked Beeju inside my vehicle while I patrolled with the village guards at night. During the day, I released Beeju, who often hid under the vehicle, fearing abandonment. Whenever I approached, she wags her tail in happiness and fulfilment. At times, I saw Beeju whimpering, seemingly missing my children. When the kids returned from school, they played and enjoyed their time with Beeju, treating her like a family member.
After a week, I moved Beeju to our old village near the Tamenglong district, a quiet and calm place. I left Beeju with the elderly villagers near the Jei river. A week later, I returned to check on the villagers and Beeju. She cried, jumped for joy, embraced my neck, and held my legs. Her tears spoke volumes, and I silently promised never to leave her again.
As the conflict continued, ration food became scarce, and we sometimes ate only one meal a day. Despite this, I shared my food with Beeju, remembering the saying from my childhood, “A dog is a faithful animal.” Beeju followed me everywhere, a constant reminder of loyalty amidst the turmoil.
After a month, my Beeju went to the place of no return, leaving me with sweet memories that I will cherish forever. Another dog, Simba, still guards our village after a year of conflict. This is one of the many cases where even animals suffer in conflict situations

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