One of the 24 Kuki people forcibly removed by the Manipur state authorities from their homes in New Lambulane in Imphal on the night of September 1 and 2, and taken to an Assam Rifles camp 25 miles away has said that he sees Meiteis as his brothers.
Seventy eight year old Reverend Prim Vaiphei says has “already forgiven” the black sheep amongst them who are responsible for the terrible things done to the Kuki community.
“Who am I to judge them?” he said in an interview this morning, four days after he and 23 others like him belonging to five Kuki families were forcibly evicted from their homes shortly after midnight.
In a 25-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Reverend Prim Vaiphei explains why he and his family along with four other Kuki families deliberately chose to remain in Imphal from May 3, when the trouble began, till September 1, when they were forced out by the state authorities. He says he trusted his life in the hands of his Meitei friends and neighbours.
Although during the last four months houses around them were brunt, people killed and women raped, the Reverend said he trusted in god as well as the security provided by the state to keep him safe. He also relied on some of his Meitei friends who he has known for 30 years.
However, shortly after midnight on September 1, he was woken and forced to leave with just the clothes he was wearing. He could not even take his watch or his cherished Bible. Indeed, he was not even able to take toothpaste or a toothbrush with him.
In simple terms, without drama or exaggeration, the Reverend tells a story of heart-warming reassurance about why he regards Imphal as his home and why he did not want to leave. There were two previous attempts to force him and the other 23 people to leave but when they demanded written instructions from the state authorities that they were unable to protect them the authorities backed off. What happened on the night of September 1 was, sadly, very different.
The Reverend describes in detail what happened and how the five Kuki families were treated. He says that if given a chance he will return to Imphal and his home in New Lambulane.
Vaiphei says that he has left behind everything in Imphal – his car, his house, his belongings, his clothes – and he requires the state to ensure that his property and possessions are protected.
This is an astonishing story because it’s the duty of the state to protect its people and, in the particular circumstances of Manipur, there’s a moral compulsion to help those Kukis who wish to continue living with the Meitei to do so. In this case the state has failed on both counts.
Watch the full interview here.