Even as the violent conflict that erupted on May 3 in Churachandpur and its bordering areas of Bishnupur district has passed seven calendar months and government claims restoration of normalcy in Manipur, Kuki militants still continue to attack Meitei villages in the peripheries of Imphal Valley from the surrounding mountains. The violence has claimed at least 181 lives and displaced more than 60,000 people.
Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on November 22 said that normalcy has been restored in many parts of the strife-torn state in the past one-two months except for a few incidents of violence.
“Normalcy has been restored in many parts of the state in the past one-two months except for some one-two incidents… We should not indulge in crime and together we should try to restore peace and normalcy in Manipur,” Chief Minister Biren told journalists in Imphal on Wednesday (November 22).
However, in a fresh round of violence, two persons from the Kuki community including an India Reserve Battalion (IRB) soldier was killed by unidentified miscreants at Haraothel in the bordering areas of Imphal West and Kangpokpi district on November 20.
The Chief Minister also said that security has been reinforced in areas of the state bordering Myanmar due to the recent unrest in the neighbouring country. Last week, over 5,000 Myanmar residents, including some army personnel, had crossed over to India in Mizoram following clashes between pro-democracy rebel outfits and Myanmar army.
“Due to the prevailing situation in Myanmar we have reinforced our security forces to the border. Apart from Assam Rifles, State Police, Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force personnel have been deployed. We are monitoring the situation very strictly,” said CM Biren.
However, attacks on Meitei villages in the peripheries of Imphal Valley particularly Sanasabi and its adjoining villages in Imphal East and Koutruk in Imphal West by the Kuki militants from the surrounding mountains continue till date (December 1).
According to reports, Kuki militants launched an attack by firing guns and bombs at Koutruk Ching Leikai under Lamshang Police station in Imphal West on November 30 resulting in a retaliatory fire from village volunteers and security forces.
Kuki militants carried out the attack from their bunkers above Koutruk Nongchup Chingyang around 3.35 pm on November 22 when Koutruk village volunteers were on their way to Koutruk community hall for their duty shift change. They fired around six bombs and numerous rounds of bullets in which the village volunteers also retaliated to the attack.
Reports added that the personnel of 2nd, 3rd and 7th India Reserve Battalions who were on duty at the area also fired towards the Kuki militants after receiving information that some Kuki militants armed with automatic rifles came down and attacked Koutruk Ching Awang area. Security forces fired around three mortar shells towards Koutruk Maning Ching after the kuki militants fired bullet rounds at the IRB bunker. One mortar shell exploded at the Kuki bunker. The Kuki militants retreated back to the hills after the security forces retaliated to the attack.
However, reports said that the Kuki militants resumed attacks on the Koutruk village in the evening on December 1. Terrified villagers of Koutruk Ching Leikai fled to Koutruk Maning Leikai to save themselves from the attack.
Another area which are still facing continued attacks from the Kuki militants Sanasabi, Sabangkhok Khunou, Thamnapokpi, Shantikhongbal and their adjoing villages under Yaingangpokpi Police Station in Imphal East.
Sanasabi village was fired upon in the night of November 30 by the Kuki militants from the nearby mountains. Exchange of fire is said to have taken in Sabungkhok Khunou area in the evening on December 1.
Earlier, on November 7 many Meitei farmers who went to their paddy fields at Thamnapokpi, Imphal East district under Yaingangpokpi police station were threatened by Kuki militants and forced to run back, abandoning all their farming tools.
Meitei farmers were tending to their paddy fields located at Maibi Lok near Thamnapokpi ground and to the western side of the Veterinary Dispensary when Kuki militants shouted from a little distance away and threatened to kill all of them.
Reports said the Kuki militants shouted to the farmers, “You cannot tend to your paddy fields; go back, if you want to live”. On hearing the Kuki militants’ threatening call, the farmers hurriedly left the fields, abandoning all their tools.
Notably, Kuki militants have been repeatedly attacking many surrounding villages of Yaingangpokpi including Shantikhongbal, Thamnapokpi, Sanasabi and Sabungkhok Khunou.
In early October too, Kuki militants fired scores of bullets at Sabungkhok village, Sanasabi village and Shanti-khongbal. Village volunteers retaliated by firing several rounds of bullets in the direction of the attackers.
While the attack at Sanasabi and adjoining areas came at around 12.40 am on October 8 from Koune and Natumching side, the attack at Sabungkhok Khunou in Imphal East came at around 4.30 am.
When the attack at Sabungkhok Khunou came, most of the locals had already taken shelter at a safe place. No one was injured in the attack even though the Kuki militants had fired many rounds of bullets, said a villager.
Before, well-armed Kuki militants launched attack on Sanasabi and Thamnapokpi villages under Yaingangpokpi police station on August 5 at around 11.30 am. The Kuki militants launched the attack from two vantage points of adjacent Kuki villages including Koune.
Meitei village volunteers also retaliated but there was no report of any injury or casualty on either side. However, some Meetei houses in Sanasabi villages were damaged in the attack.
The attacks on Sanasabai and its neighbouring villages mentioned above are not the only attacks carried out by the Kuki militants from the surrounding mountains.
The intermittent and continuous attacks by the Kuki militants on Sanasabi, Sabungkhok Khunou, Shantikhongbal and Thamnapkpi are happening at least once or twice a month in the last seven months. The villagers said the intermittent and continuous attack on civilian settlements has put the lives of the locals at risk and they are always on the run to survive.
The Government needs to study and analyse how and why these villages are targetted and attacked repeatedly. Security forces need to destroy the bunkers on the ridge of the nearby mountains and dominate the area to station there to control the violence.
Now, the Government should give special attention to Sanasabi and its neighbouring villages to stop the violence.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics