Sangaithel/Saheibung (Manipur): As Kuki and Meitei villagers pick up their lives after one of the worst bouts of ethnic clashes in this northeastern state, they have only one question in mind: when will life be back to normal?
Normal for most of them meant being able to chat with a fellow Manipuri, without worrying whether he or she belonged to another tribe, to ride a motorcycle to the next district in search of a bargain or see a movie in the evening without worrying about an arson attack at the cinema hall.
“Politicians need to step out and work towards a milap'(friendship) Only then, there will be peace and all will be able to sleep in their own homes. Otherwise, there will be no end to this madness,” said N Sundeep Meitei told PTI in Sangaithel village in Imphal West district.
L Bimol Meitei, an ex-BSF personnel, said that his village Sangaithel is adjacent to a Kuki village and before the violence began, there was a cordial relation between them with both sides visiting each other.
“There was trade happening between the two tribes. After May 3, there is an atmosphere of fear because attacks took place in some nearby places. So, the contacts have stopped now,” he lamented.
In the neighbouring Kuki village of Saheibung, located in a foothill of Kangpokpi district, Village Chief S Athang Haokip said his family was affected and they had to flee on the first night of rioting to hide in the jungle.
“After the Army came, we felt safer and relieved. But I don’t know how long this will go on. Once the army leaves, what will be the situation — only time will say that,” he added.
Haokip said that houses in his and other neighbouring Kuki villages were not burnt by people from Sangaithel or any other nearby Meitei settlement, but by attackers who came from distant places.
The village chief said, “Kukis have nowhere to go, Meiteis are in the same boat If violence continues after the Army leaves, we have no option but to fight. We have to fight until both of are finished .
“The BJP government says it is double-engined and they can do anything. Such a fast and strong government will definitely have solutions … Unless there is a solution, this war will go on.”
Hoping that Shah’s visit will provide some solutions to the problem, Haokip requested the Central government to do whatever is needed to bring normalcy back.
Bimol Meitei said there must be dialogue between the two communities and the state or central government should take the initiative to that end.
He said that people from Sangaithel and Saheibung met once after the violence started mainly due to an e initiative taken by the armed forces.
“There, we all agreed that this violence must end at lest here as soon as possible. Both sides agreed that we would request our community brothers in other places to stop violence,” Meitei said.
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This, he pointed out needs to be replicated on a bigger scale throughout the state.
Home Minister Amit Shah‘s four-day tour of Manipur is being viewed by these simple but shrewd villagers as a portent for just such an effort.
Though there are mutterings against the state government for failing to do its duty during the rioting, the tour of the state even as the smoke from burnt houses still smolders by Shah and his high powered team, is being seen as sign that the hatchet may yet be buried and life may get back to what it was before.
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