Churachandpur Meiteis at the crossroads, seek justice

Imphal: 37-year-old Ronald Meisnam loses his cool on seeing two contrasting photos – one, his native home at Mandop Leikai, a Meitei locality at Churachandpur district headquarters where he was born and brought up mingling with the tribal environment so much so that he speaks Kuki-Zo languages smoothly, and the other that rankles him is a flattened plot of land after his house was completely demolished. His depressed young friend Amarjit Maibam (28), also from the Kuki-Chin-Mizo dominated district, simply utters with a heavy heart “all Meitei houses at Khuga Tampak numbering nearly 1000, including ours, were set ablaze, looted and destroyed by miscreants, and now our native village wears the look of a war devastated zone.”

Ronal and Amarjit are among around 15,000 odd Meiteis whose houses in 11 different Meitei villages in Churachandpur were destroyed in the unprecedented ethnic violence unfolded in Manipur on May 3.

They are currently taking refuge at different relief camps in the valley districts. What fuels more ire to the duo is the demolition of numerous houses belonging to the Meiteis after they left their Churachandpur homesteads by miscreants in front of the police.

“After we left Churachandpur owing to the violence, numerous Meitei houses, including ours, have been flattened in a systematic by using heavy machineries by miscreants as if they are the rightful owners of the Meitei plots,” an emotional Ronald told the Waari Singbul. The police, who are well aware of these unlawful acts, have not taken any action against the culprits,” he lamented.

Chief minister N Biren Singh, who had been informed about these illegal activities, has assured action against the perpetrators. Sadly, there has been no report of arrest of the culprits to date, compounding the angst to the hapless owners.

“Unlike Churchandpur, none of the Kuki houses and the properties that were destroyed in the valley districts during the clash, have not been bulldozed and flattened, and the structures are heavily guarded by the police and the security forces round the clock. Upon this, we strongly feel that there are two separate laws –one in the valley and the other in the hills,” he lamented.

Meanwhile a highly reliable state official told Waari Singbul that Churachandpur SP has already taken up a suo moto case on the matters of levelling the Meitei localities in Churachandpur by miscreants. The Official asserted that all those found guilty during investigation would be punished as per law. He further informed that internally displaced persons or other victims of the conflict who have lost important documents or records like Pattas of landholdings, educational certificates and even financial records need not worry as these legal documents would be re-issued to them by the concerned District Magistrates where they are currently seeking refuge. All they have to do is file complaints with the concerned District Magistrate of the district. All District Magistrates have been accordingly instructed to do the needful, the top bureaucrat said.

Though the state sees no semblance of immediate restoration of normalcy, the two, like other displaced Meities, have the deep zeal to return back to their native homes to avoid snapping the legacy of their lineage there. “Churachandpur is the only tribal district in the state where the largest number of Meiteis are living. We don’t want to set a new history when all Meiteis leave the district and scatter in the valley areas or elsewhere,” Ronald said. “My father, who was born at the same Mandop Leikai residence, was reluctant to leave home even in the peak of attack by Kuki miscreants on May 3, asking why he should run away from his birthplace. Only after our hard insistence, we all left home with all despondency,” he added.

Recapitulating the socio-political changes and militants’ dominance in Churachandpur, Ronald said soon after the Kuki-Paite clash broke out in 1997, the Zomi Revolutionary Army ZRA was formed to protect the Zo people. Upon such formation, other Kuki militant groups in the district also enhanced ground control, and since then these outfits made up their strongholds in their respective areas in Churachandpur, Ronald said. In the wake of this development, the Meities, who had strong socio-fabric bindings with all communities in the district, gradually loosened from the circle and began facing uneasiness in the society.

The Meiteis also faced difficulties in getting their basic fundamental rights in Churachandpur. “Because of various factors, including the inconsequential outlook towards them, many Meitei people had a hard time to get domicile certificates and even Patta/Jamabandi for their own land from the concerned office in Churachandpur. Among the Meiteis, those who had connections with influential persons got such dossiers, and others were left in the lurch,” lamented Ronald. There was a time when a large number of Meiteis living at Khumujamba Leikai had joined hands together and formed a body christened “Khumujamba Pattadar Association” only to pursue to the district officials to get their land Pattas. Because of the unconducive atmosphere, some Meiteis had left their native villages and shifted to other valley districts, he recalled. “In the midst of this perturbing situation, our rich neighbours had offered huge amounts to buy our land, but my father flatly rejected it only for the love of his birth place. Now everything is gone after the ethnic clash unfolded,” said Ronal, who got his BE (Electronics and Communications) degree from Manipur Institute of Technology (MIT). Ronald is one of the displaced Meiteis who raised the popular demand to the government to take stringent legal action against those miscreants who flattened their houses. “We are at the crossroads now. We strongly urge the government to give exemplary punishment to those perpetrators who bull-dozed and flattened our native houses. The government should also take necessary measures to ensure we return back to our native homes and resettle there,” he said (A Story by Waari Singbul Network)

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