Home » Phayeng Meira Paibis Confront Frigid Nights and Biting Winds, Yearning for Peace: Will the Government Answer the Call?

Phayeng Meira Paibis Confront Frigid Nights and Biting Winds, Yearning for Peace: Will the Government Answer the Call?

by Aribam Bishwajit
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Phayeng Meira Paibis Confront Frigid Nights and Biting Winds, Yearning for Peace: Will the Government Answer the Call?

Since the eruption of violence at the zenith of summer on May 3, 2023, Manipur has found itself ensnared in a seemingly unyielding cycle that has persisted unabated into the winter month of November. The epicenter of this strife lies in the escalating conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities, a bitter feud that shows no signs of abating. The crux of the discord revolves around the fervent demand of Kuki lawmakers to carve out a distinct territory for themselves, effectively fracturing the state of Manipur. Regrettably, the government’s attempts at brokering a dialogue with these Kuki representatives have proven futile, further exacerbating the already precarious situation.
The consequence of this protracted conflict has been the normalization of violence, with firing and killings becoming a grim daily reality for the denizens of Manipur. The once-stable fabric of law and order in the region has frayed to an unprecedented degree, casting a shadow over the daily lives of its inhabitants.
As the winter descends upon Manipur, a team from the Imphal Times sought to unravel the layers of this unfolding tragedy. Their journey led them to the resilient Meira Paibis, who, for six and a half arduous months, have stood as unwavering sentinels, braving scorching heat, relentless rain, and biting cold. Stationed at Phayeng Mamang Leikai, they bear the solemn responsibility of safeguarding their community from the looming threat of Kuki militants.
In a poignant encounter, the Imphal Times team discovered a community on the edge, where sleepless nights and ceaseless vigilance have become the norm. The Meira Paibis, in their tireless commitment to the safety of the Meitei community, remain perpetually vigilant, scrutinizing every vehicle that enters or exits their territory. Their tireless efforts are not without sacrifice; the recent loss of Leichonbam Abemcha from Kangchup Chingkhong serves as a stark reminder of the perils they face.
The hills that surround them have become both a vantage point and a looming threat. Kuki militants, from these elevated positions, have targeted the Meitei community, instigating a cycle of violence that seems unrelenting. The Meira Paibis, in their self-appointed role as guardians, stand as a buffer between the residents and the ominous shadows that lurk in the hills.
Meira Paibii Priya’s poignant account unveils the harsh realities faced by the Meira Paibis, laying bare the stark dichotomy between the idyllic winter they envisioned and the harsh vigilance forced upon them by the ongoing conflict. She spoke of a tradition where, during this season, they should have been nestled comfortably at home, warmed by the traditional Meiphu, their children cradled in their arms as they slept soundly in the embrace of their beds. Instead, the current tumult has robbed them of these simple pleasures, compelling them to endure sleepless nights in the biting cold and unforgiving rain.
“At 6 pm, we emerge from our homes to stand guard, and we persist in our duty of checking vehicles and individuals until 5 am the following morning. The shifts change, but our vigilance remains unyielding, and the toll it takes on us is immense. Enduring such conditions is a tremendous challenge, and when illness befalls us, the government remains indifferent, leaving us to shoulder the burden of our own medical expenses,” Priya lamented.
The economic ramifications of their predicament are equally distressing. Priya underscored the impact on their livelihoods, noting, “It’s harvest season, yet we find ourselves defending our village. The consequence is a loss of income, directly affecting our children’s education. Tuition fees loom large, and we grapple with the uncertainty of how to meet these financial obligations.”
Priya did not shy away from criticizing Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s assertion that there is no conflict or encounter in Manipur. She revealed the stark disparity between the perceived tranquility in the heart of Imphal, where the Chief Minister resides, and the stark reality near the hills, where the Meira Paibis face daily attacks from Kuki militants. “Every day, near the hills, there is gunfire. The Kuki militants assail us regularly, yet Pabung Biren maintains there is no war,” Priya lamented.
The toll on the psychological well-being of their children was another heart-wrenching aspect Priya shared. The pervasive fear that grips the younger generation, triggered even by innocuous sounds, reflects the profound impact of the conflict on their innocence. Priya revealed, “Our children live in constant fear. The slightest noise startles them, and they associate it with Kuki attacks. Instead of focusing on their studies, they worry about fires and where we would run in case of an attack. As mothers, we should be guiding our sons and daughters through their school exams, but the streets become our makeshift beds as we sacrifice our own comfort to protect our community.”
With a fervent plea, Priya directed her appeal to Chief Minister calling him Pabung Biren and other lawmakers, beseeching them to expedite a resolution that would allow them to reclaim the semblance of normalcy they yearn for. Holding Chief Minister Biren accountable for facilitating dialogues with diverse communities, Priya emphasized the urgency of a permanent solution, given his influential position.
“As Chief Minister, Pabung Biren boasts of the authority vested in his position. It is his responsibility to engage in constructive dialogues and bring about a lasting resolution to our plight. We have endured enough hardship, with one of our own paying the ultimate price. The specter of uncertainty looms over us daily, and we cannot predict when it might be our turn to bear the brunt of this relentless conflict,” she solemnly declared.
In light of the Phayeng Meira Paibis enduring the elements—be it the scorching heat, relentless rain, or biting cold—for countless months, their call resonates not just for empathy but for collective action. Urging the residents along the Uripok-Kangchup road to stand in solidarity, they beseech others to share the burden of vigilance on a rotational basis. Ibemcha, with conviction in her voice, implored the women from Uripok-Kangchup road to join forces, not just to alleviate their collective suffering but to provide them with brief respites and moments to reconnect with their families.
“If even 10 or 20 women from Uripok-Kangchup road join us in safeguarding the state, it would significantly augment our Meira Paibi force. Furthermore, we plead with them not just to stand by our side temporarily but to support us until the conflict subsides. What we are engaged in is the protection of all the people of Manipur. Our vigilance here in Phayeng is not isolated; it has far-reaching consequences for the safety of those residing along Uripok-Kangchup road. If we falter in our defense at Phayeng, the repercussions could be catastrophic for other parts of the region,” stressed Ibemcha, emphasizing the interconnectedness of their collective responsibility.
Chaoba echoed Ibemcha’s sentiments, shedding light on the collateral damage inflicted by the conflict on their children’s education and their families’ livelihoods. She lamented that the persistent turmoil has compelled their children to forego attending schools in their locality, while the commitment to protect the village has left them without a means of earning.
“Our dedication to safeguarding the community has come at a cost. The lack of a stable income has rendered us unable to meet our basic needs, including paying the rent for our children studying in the heart of Imphal,” Chaoba disclosed. In these heartfelt appeals, the Phayeng Meira Paibis not only illuminate the dire circumstances they face but also extend a call for unity and shared responsibility in the face of adversity.
A prevailing sentiment echoed through the voices of numerous Meira Paibis, a collective weariness borne from enduring the tumultuous past six months. Their expressions carried a heavy concern, one that weighed on the future prospects of their children. Disturbingly, it has been revealed that a significant number remain confined in relief camps, while those from the Kangchup areas harbor a palpable fear, refraining from returning home due to the looming threat of Kuki Militants.
The atmosphere of insecurity has been further intensified by the unfortunate toll exacted by the conflict, with at least three lives lost thus far from Phayeng areas.. The Meira Paibis bared their anguish, revealing that the ability to sleep peacefully has become a luxury stripped away from them. In a stark contrast, many in the city areas continue to enjoy undisturbed nights of rest, unaware of the pervasive anxieties that haunt the nights of those ensnared in the conflict.
The disquieting reality painted by these accounts not only underscores the immediate challenges faced by the Meira Paibis but also speaks to the broader narrative of the toll exacted by conflict on the everyday lives of communities. The poignant expressions of concern for the well-being of their children and the palpable fear that prevents a return to normalcy underline the urgency of finding a resolution to the ongoing strife, bringing relief to those who have borne the brunt of its impact.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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