Thousands of villagers settled in the fringe areas of Imphal valley in Manipur are living in fear and uncertainty as unrest continues following the communal violence that broke out between the Meitei and Kuki communities in several parts of the state. The villagers are threatened by militant attacks. Despite the fear of being killed in such attacks, they are not ready to abandon their villages yet.
Holding on to their land and property, the menfolk guard their villages from possible attacks by militant groups under the SoO (Suspension of Operation) while hoping that the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) would come to their rescue.
Although the security advisor to the Manipur government, Kuldiep Singh, informed the media that the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) and paramilitary forces, which arrived in the state, have been deployed in the periphery areas, villagers residing in vulnerable zones such as Leitanpokpi, Pukhao, and Santipur in Imphal East and Tera Khutsangbi and Tronglaobi in Bishnupur district said they have not seen a single CAPF personnel deployed in the area till the filing of this report.
Men in Leitanpokpi village in Imphal East, whose houses were allegedly torched by SoO militants on May 4, have still not vacated the village. Women and children have been evacuated to safe zones (relief camps). In all, 23 houses in the village were said to have been torched.
Using all the available weapons in their possessions, including some license guns, the menfolk have been guarding their villages round the clock, even to the extent of risking their lives in order to defend their villages.
“It is unfortunate that the CAFP which were sent to Manipur, are being confined only in Imphal to guard the VVIP, while the civilian villagers are left alone to defend their villages from the militants under SoO,” said Salam Joy Singh of Leitanpokpi while speaking to this Imphal Free Press reporter.
He pointed out that security forces are being deployed only in the Dolaithabi area (neighbouring village). He stressed the need for deploying security personnel at the foothills surrounding the village, which can be an easy route for SoO militants to enter.
If the government considers letting the villagers defend themselves, it should opt to supply standard guns to the villagers to fight against the militants, he said.
If the government really considers bringing back normalcy in the state, they should first take care of the SoO militants, who have become a grave threat to the civilians, he added.
As many as 65 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were deployed in the surrounding area of Tera Khutsangbi on Thursday night, soon after a personnel of Manipur police commando succumbed to a bullet injury during an attack by suspected SoO militants in Tronglaobi (neighbouring village).
Had the government deployed the forces earlier, such an attack might not have taken place, said Salam Romio, a villager.
The villagers also lamented about the reported abduction of three people and the injury of one by suspected militants under SoO at Torbung Bangla in Bishnupur district. They blamed the “untimely response of the security personnel” for the unfortunate incident.
The three individuals would have been saved from those SoO militants had the police intervened in time, a local said, adding that due to a 30-minute delay in police response, their whereabouts were yet to found.