Asia - Pacific

Displaced people’s woes mount in northeast Indian state of Manipur

Since ethnic violence erupted in May, Manipur has been facing shortage of essential items because security forces are deployed on all highways, people tell Anadolu

Shuriah Niazi  | 29.09.2023 - Update : 29.09.2023
Displaced people’s woes mount in northeast Indian state of Manipur

​​​​​​​NEW DELHI

Internally displaced people confined to relief camps in India’s northeastern state of Manipur continue to live in fear, not knowing what the future will bring.

They include 33-year-old Nganthoili, a resident of a camp in the capital Imphal, which has been her home since her village was ravaged by violence in May.

“Our lives have completely changed,” she told Anadolu by phone. "We don't know how long we shall continue this way in these trying circumstances. It seems that life has ended for us. I am living here with many people, so it's not easy.”

“We are facing all kinds of problems, but I consider myself lucky that I am alive. There are many people who either died or went missing after the attack in the village.”

Thousands of people have been displaced due to the ongoing violence in Manipur. Their living conditions are pitiable, and there appears to be no end in sight.

According to government figures, more than 50,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and live in the relief camps due to the violence that has been going on for five months. About 12,000 people have taken shelter in the neighboring state of Mizoram.

Another woman who declined to disclose her name said she had to live with many people in the relief camp and the situation is showing no signs of improving.

“The government has completely failed to help us. We cannot tell the situation in which we are living. I would just like to say that we should be provided security so that we can return to our own homes,” she said.

The suffering and hardship of women and children continue to increase. Many people staying in the camps, particularly small children, are reportedly repeatedly falling ill.

Keisham Meghachandra Singh, the state president of the main opposition Congress Party in Manipur, said the situation is very bad.

Nongthombam Biren Singh is the incumbent chief minister of Manipur, where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power. The BJP is also in power at the national level under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Keisham claimed that both the national and state (provincial) governments are responsible for the situation that has arisen and they have failed to resolve the crisis.

“Regarding the people who are living in the relief camps, you can realize what kind of problems they must be facing, as many people are forced to share one room. This is a very uncomfortable situation for women,” he told Anadolu.

“There is a shortage of essential items in the entire state because security forces are deployed on all the highways, hence the goods are not coming, and whatever is available is many times more expensive,” he said.

He said relief camps are also facing shortages of essential items, including food and medical supplies.

An attempt was made to speak to senior officials of the state on the matter, but they did not respond.

Chief Minister Singh said the provincial government was in "continuous contact" with Indian Union Home Minister Amit Shah regarding the situation in the state.

He sought support and the public’s cooperation in handling the crisis and restoring peace in the state.

Singh maintained that the provincial government has been "taking all steps to restore peace under the supervision" of the federal government.

​​​​Protests erupt after students' death confirmed

The capital city of Imphal has been witnessing protests since Tuesday after it was confirmed that two students missing since July had been killed. Curfew was imposed on Wednesday and continues on Friday.

The Manipur government said Monday that two students from the Meitei community who had gone missing in July, both residents of Imphal, had been murdered and that the investigations in the case had been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The Imphal police said they suspect that the students had been killed by Kuki militants.

Police used force to control protesters, who were demanding justice for the victims. A ruling party office was set on fire on Wednesday by an irate mob.

“In light of the distressing news about the tragic deaths of the missing students, I want to assure the people of the state that both the state and central governments are closely working together to nab the perpetrators,” Chief Minister Singh said on Wednesday.

The provincial government on Wednesday extended special powers for armed forces for another six months starting Oct. 1, keeping in view the overall law and order situation in the state.
At least 175 people have been killed in ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities in Manipur since May 3, according to officials.

The army was called in on May 4 to assist in law enforcement after a curfew was imposed in eight districts of Manipur following violence that erupted during protests against the inclusion of the Meitei community in the scheduled tribes category, giving them special privileges.

The state’s deadly ethnic clashes were sparked in May when members of the Kuki and Naga tribes, who inhabit Manipur's hills and are regarded as Scheduled Tribes -- India's most disadvantaged groups -- launched a protest against the possible extension of their benefits to the dominant Meitei community, which makes up 53% of the state's population.

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