By Khumanthem Dhanachandra
Imphal, Nov 2:
While the Government claimed to have restored peace to the extent of 90 percent, the reality on the ground in the foothills of the Imphal area paints a contrasting picture, suggesting that true peace has yet to return to Manipur.
Wangkhem Opendro, the secretary of the SSY Club in Sabungkhok Khunou, shed light on the grim situation, stating, “Our village has persistently been a target for gun attacks carried out by Kuki militants, with a particularly harrowing incident occurring on October 28, when a barrage of rounds was fired at our peaceful enclave.”
Continuing, he emphasized the ongoing threat posed by these Kuki terrorists, expressing deep concerns about the safety and livelihoods of the villagers. Opendro lamented, “The incessant attacks by Kuki terrorists have cast a pervasive shadow of fear and insecurity over our community. The ability to work and earn a livelihood has been severely hampered. Adding to the dilemma, the rear areas of our homes are dotted with paddy fields, but even agriculture, our traditional sustenance, has ground to a halt due to the relentless attacks. The constant sense of impending danger has gripped our lives, with the militants firing upon us from dangerously close range, leaving us in a perpetual state of uncertainty and fear.”
In response to the government’s assertions, Wangkhem Opendro reiterated the official stance that the state forces are responsible for protecting the valley areas, while central forces are tasked with safeguarding the hill regions. He acknowledged the dedication of the state forces stationed in their village, acknowledging that they have diligently carried out their duties in maintaining order and security. He emphasized, “We are not permitted to take matters into our own hands, as this falls under their purview, and they have been performing their role commendably by shielding our community. However, it’s a different story when it comes to the central forces in the hill areas. Regrettably, they appear to be struggling to contain the activities of Kuki terrorists in these regions. This has eroded our trust in their ability to protect us.”
In a poignant reflection on the ground reality, Opendro pointed out the stark disparity between official claims of 90 percent peace in Manipur and the overwhelming unrest experienced in their local area. He highlighted the palpable fear that has gripped the villagers, rendering them reluctant to venture beyond the confines of their homes. “Even now, a good night’s sleep remains a luxury for us. We have been compelled to relocate our beds and possessions to safer locations out of concern that Kuki terrorists may descend upon our homes and set them ablaze. The toll this insecurity takes on us is immeasurable, not only in terms of our psychological well-being but also in the form of numerous problems we are grappling with, including the deteriorating health of our community members. Sleepless nights have become an unfortunate norm for us,” he lamented.
Laishram Mema, the Secretary of Sabungkhok Khunou Meira Paibis, echoed the sentiments expressed by Wangkhem Opendro, shedding light on the stark disconnect between the state government’s claims of peace in Manipur and the lived experiences of those residing near the hills. She noted, “While the state government proclaims to have ushered in an era of peace, those of us living in the vicinity of these hills are grappling with an array of pressing problems, all stemming from the relentless attacks by Kuki militants.”
Drawing a poignant contrast, Mema highlighted the disparity in the impact of this unrest on different segments of the population. She remarked, “People residing in the heart of Imphal may be enduring some semblance of normalcy, but we, living in close proximity to the hills, are directly bearing the brunt of this ongoing unrest. It has been days since we experienced the comfort of a peaceful night’s sleep within the confines of our own homes. The very fabric of our daily lives has been disrupted, impeding our ability to earn a livelihood.”
With a sobering perspective, she continued, “It is important to recognize that the sons and daughters of our lawmakers are not the ones who step forward to defend our state, nor do their wives endure sleepless nights fraught with worry. Their loved ones are not falling victim to the unrest, their homes are not reduced to ashes. It is this stark contrast that allows them to make bold claims about peace having been restored. However, we, the ordinary citizens, have yet to witness even a glimmer of returning peace in our lives.”
The tragic killing of a Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) in Moreh on the previous day stands as a poignant and harrowing testament to the persistent unrest in Manipur. This disconcerting incident serves as a distressing milestone, underscoring the gravity of the situation that has plagued the region for an excruciatingly protracted period, now hovering on the precipice of its sixth month as November 3rd looms on the horizon.
Amid this protracted turmoil, the predicament faced by those residing in close proximity to the hills has emerged as a poignant and troubling narrative. Their daily lives are etched with stories of suffering, fear, and uncertainty. The inability of the Government to effectively quell the turmoil has left the people grappling with a profound sense of perplexity. As they watch the calendar days turn, they are left pondering what their next course of action should be, recognizing that their lives are held hostage by the persistent unrest.
In the face of this prolonged crisis, the people of Manipur find themselves at a crossroads, navigating a landscape where hope for a peaceful resolution remains dim. The ongoing instability permeates every facet of their existence, from their economic well-being to their personal safety, casting a pervasive shadow over the entire region. It is a dire situation that demands attention and effective intervention, as the clock ticks toward the bleak anniversary of six months of unrest.