Manipur: Imphal's Last Kuki Families Say They Were 'Forcibly Evacuated' From City

A total of 24 individuals from the Kuki community, including infants and people in need of regular hospital checkups, were taken from New Lambulane to a camp in a village. They said they were given little time to pack and fear their homes will now be destroyed.

New Delhi: A team comprising soldiers of the Assam Rifles and cops of the Manipur Police are learnt to have arrived at Imphal’s New Lambulane at 2.30 am to forcibly evacuate some of the last Kuki families residing in the area on September 2.

They were relocated out of the capital to the village of Motbung, 25 kilometres away in Kangpokpi district.

It is understood that those living in New Lambulane were the last of the Kuki residents living in Imphal.

A total of 24 individuals from the Kuki community were evacuated from New Lambulane today, including infants and people in need of regular hospital checkups.

Jamkholal Touthang used to visit Shija Hospital every alternate day for kidney dialysis, but is now wondering what to do.

“More than 50 state and central forces came and clearly told us that they are merely following orders from the Union home ministry,” Jamkholal said.

The Wire asked a number of thus evacuated Kuki citizens if they had asked officials to show them the order from the Union home ministry. Most said they were afraid. The security forces gave them less than an hour to pack all their belongings and they were asked to sit in vehicles without asking any questions, they said.

Mang, one of the Kuki residents who had been living in Imphal’s New Lambulane and has now been evacuated, said, “Right now, we’re at a relief camp in Motbung outside Imphal. We are Indian citizens, but the government of India cannot provide us with protection to live in our own houses? It is the failure of the Indian government.”

Also read: ‘Surviving Without Pay, Unable to Venture Out’: How Kuki Families Are Navigating Life in Imphal

Most of them left without any money. Mang added, “Most of us left in a hurry, so no one was able to take money. We don’t know how we will manage in the coming days. My passport and Aadhaar are still at my place. I am fearing that sooner or later, our houses will also be burnt down.”

The situation in Manipur – roiled by ethnic violence since May 2 – had been particularly tense since August 29. As many as eight people have died since then individuals. Earlier, The Wire had reported that a few families were still residing in Imphal’s New Lambulane, with the police providing them security.

The New Lambulane area is tightly populated. Outside the area, many Central and state forces had been deployed to guard the Kuki families living in the area.

The Wire also reached out to one of the Naga residents living in New Lambulane, who said later in the day on September 2 that  personnel of “Manipur Police, the CRPF and RAF” were in the area.

“The place is still safe. I’m wondering why they had to be ‘forcefully’ taken out from the area, especially at 2:30 in the night,” the Naga resident said.

The Wire also reached out to DGP Rajiv Singh but he refused to give a comment over phone.

The 24 evacuated people have written a press release expressing their strong disapproval of this evacuation, emphasising “India’s failure to ensure its citizens’ safety in the face of disruptive forces. “

On August 31, during crossfire and bombings, six people lost their lives – four from the Kuki community and two from the Meitei community, totalling eight casualties since August 29. Both Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts experienced a complete shutdown for two days till September 1. The Ministry of Home Affairs also announced the deployment of 50 additional CRPF companies to strengthen buffer zones between the hills and the valley in Manipur.

Boxing champion Mary Kom also wrote a letter to home minister Amit Shah saying, “Security forces should stop both communities from entering Kom villages, army should save Kom tribe.”

Currently, firing is ongoing near the valley villages of Naranseina, Thamnapokpi, and Ngangkha Leikai. On the hillside, there is firing near Kangathei and Khoirentak village. Kangathei is the birthplace of Mary Kom.