Manipur violence: Inmates at relief camps cry to return homes

Some victims also do not want to shift to the temporary accommodation that the government has offered, saying that they will never be able to return to their homes

Children wait in queue to receive food at a relief camp in Manipur (Photo:  Getty Images)
Children wait in queue to receive food at a relief camp in Manipur (Photo: Getty Images)


Restless victims of Manipur's three-month-long ethnic strife housed in cramped makeshift relief camps are demanding the state government solves the imbroglio so that they can go back home.

Some victims also do not want to shift to the temporary accommodation that the government has offered, saying that they will never be able to return to their homes if they move to these new prefabricated dwelling units.

At the Thongju Kendra Relief Camp set up at Ideal Girls College in Akampat of Imphal East district, some inmates from Tengnoupal and Churachandpur districts told PTI that they "do not have faith in the state government's assurance on rebuilding their homes." "It has been more than three months we are living in relief camps. How long are we going to stay here? We need our home back. Our people were murdered, now we need justice," said Sanatambi, who hails from the India-Myanmar border town of Moreh.

Nganthoibi (24) and her family from Churachandpur also want to go back to their home now as they do not want to stay at the relief camp in "inhuman conditions".

"I have a six-member family -- husband, 7-month-old baby, father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law -- all are here in the relief camp. On May 3, our house was burnt and we could collect nothing while fleeing from the place. We have lost everything in this clash," she told PTI over the phone.

She claimed that many inmates in the relief camp are willing to move to the temporary houses that the government has constructed at different locations despite assurances from the administration of shifting them to their respective homes in future when the situation normalises.

"We don't trust the government, we don't know for how long it will be in those temporary locations. We want to go back to our own houses. We are tired of the government's assurances and don't see any hope from them," Nganthoibi said.

"We want to go back to Moreh to our homes. This town was the No 2 in revenue collection for Manipur after Imphal. If this violence continues, India is going to lose heavily. The BJP is responsible for the situation that Manipur is witnessing today.

"In the case of Moreh, there has been no town committee election for the last 10 years. All the Marwaris and Punjabis have fled the town, and the Tamilian people left after this present violence began," Ingobi Singh (75) from Moreh said.

Moreh, one of the fastest growing towns in Manipur, in Tengnoupal district, is predominantly a Kuki town with a sizeable number of Tamils and other communities like Punjabis. It's a multi-religious town with Christians being the majority, followed by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains.

"How long are we going to suffer like this? We appeal to the government to bring peace as soon as possible. We want to go back to our homes at Churachandpur," said Rajen Huiram (37) from the hill district.

On August 23, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had said that the prefabricated houses built for those affected by violence are not a permanent arrangement and were constructed to ease the hardship faced by those living in relief camps.

He had handed over the temporary shelter homes to over 300 families at Sajiwa Jail Complex in Imphal East district. The victims were staying at various relief camps in the same area.

The prefabricated houses, being built at eight sites, are ready-made structures that are constructed off-site and assembled at the place where the homes will be set up.

Singh had said that 320 houses have been built at Kwakta in Bishnupur district, 400 at Sajiwa and 200 at Sawombung in Imphal East, while 400 such houses were constructed at Yaithibi Loukol in Thoubal district.

The chief minister had also said there would be a little delay in Kangpokpi and Churachandpur districts.

Two sites have been considered for 700 families in Kangpokpi district. For Churachandpur too, a site for construction is identified, he had added.

More than 160 people lost their lives and several hundreds were injured since ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3, after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals -- Nagas and Kukis -- constitute little over 40 per cent and reside in the hill districts.

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Published: 27 Aug 2023, 1:58 PM