As Churachandpur, the flashpoint of the violence in Manipur, remains on edge from threat of sporadic violence, an orphanage in the district, where about 10 children are currently housed, is running out of essentials such as groceries, ration, and medicines, residents who run the home said on Monday. They added that they were also trying to track a girl from the home, who had gone missing as the violence had broken out.
Amid rising tensions in the State over the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by the Meitei community, a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ against the Meiteis’ inclusion in Churachandpur on May 3 sparked the violence, which has spread to several districts of the State, including Imphal, with dozens of people reportedly dead. The official death toll yet to be made public.
While thousands of ST people from the Kuki community are stranded in Imphal and the valley areas in Army camps or makeshift shelters, thousands of Meitei people are similarly stranded in the hill districts as well. In the violence since May 3, residents have said that nearly 70 tribal villages had been razed in the hill districts.
“We have not heard gunfire in the last couple of hours. But we are running out of rice, groceries, first aid [supplies], sanitary napkins, and other essentials,” 55-year-old Haokip, who runs the Somin children’s home in the Tuibuang area, said. The home currently houses about 10 children aged between 12 to 17 years, most of whom are from tribal communities.
However, one of the children, a 15-year-old girl, has been missing since the violence broke out, with desperate efforts underway to trace her. “She and one other child were being sent to their relatives’ place for a visit and the violence broke out on their way. While one of them has made it, this girl had to run for safety,” Dr. Haokip said.
He added that they had received a call about her whereabouts on Monday morning but that they did not know her exact location. “She was supposed to return to us today [Monday] anyway. So we will wait and see what we can do in the meantime,” he said, adding that she was likely to be safe in areas dominated by tribal communities.
Even as security forces try to evacuate Meitei people from Churachandpur, residents in the town said that hundreds of tribal people, whose homes had been burned in the violence, are seeking shelter wherever they can find — in community halls and at people’s homes.
“Near us in Churachandpur, the situation is peaceful for the time being,” one resident said, adding that, in the tribal villages on the foothills, however, raids went on till as recently as Sunday night, forcing many of them to flee, some of whom are being housed by residents of Churachandpur.
Some of the villagers hid out in the forests through the night before coming into the town area of Churachandpur the next morning.
Dr. Haokip, who also runs a school in town, Bethesda Academy, said that one of his students’ family had lost their home to the mob violence in their village. “They have nothing now and are taking shelter two houses from mine,” he said, adding that thousands more had been displaced and were being housed at Army relief camps in the area.