People across the globe welcomed the new year with renewed ambitions and energy to further their career and lives while the harrowing violent conflict in Manipur, which had claimed the lives of hundreds, took a violent turn as it entered the new year.
The sound of gunshots had finally simmered down along the adjoining areas of Kangchup hill range when on 30 January, 2024, suspected armed Kuki militants carried out a malicious attack in adjoining areas of Koutruk, Imphal West which claimed the lives of two village volunteers, Khaba and Michaeldev.
Prior to this, another attack was also launched by suspected Kuki militants on 17 January, 2024 at Kangchup, Imphal West, which resulted in a gunfight and claimed the life of village volunteer T Manoranjan.
People in Imphal gathered in large numbers for the final rites and burials of these brave souls voicing dissent against the failure of the system.
The alarming spike in gun attacks along the Kangchup range unravels certain loopholes in the security measures implemented by both the state and central authorities while also pointing out the need to listen to opinions and voices of actual frontliners who have been guarding the hostile battlefront since day one of the conflict.
Bearing this pertinent issue in mind, this Imphal Free Press reporter headed towards the buffer zone of Kangchup foothills to especially talk with the villager defenders and hear their views on the present political landscape of Manipur.
“As the conflict rages on, what we truly need is the security. Not in terms of security deployment, but the stringent implementation of measures to stop bullets from crossing the so-called buffer zones,” said N Ranjit (name changed), a village volunteer in Kangchup.
He stated that there were various shortages in guarding the front but those were less important compared to the greater concern of our motherland.
“We want the people to realise the gravity of conflict. Viewing how people are reacting to conflict it seems as if people on the fringes are the only ones who realise the weight of the ongoing conflict,” he said.
He highlighted that there were several layers to the conflict which need different people with diverse skill sets to tackle the issue.
“Except for very few voices, majority are still in the twilight zone when it comes to the conflict. The conflict also needs well read academicians, economist and other experts who can rectify stray narratives and lay down sound facts and proves analytically,” he said.
As such, he exhorted objective academics and scholars to join in tackling the conflict and questioned if they will joined only when the issue affects them personally.
He further stated that the division in politics between different parties, groups and organisations was one of the primary reasons behind the failure to properly establish authority in the state.
“Bickering and shaming during such hard times reveals our inability to look beyond vested interests. All the demands and issues by different groups needs to be streamlined in order to solidify our true aspirations,” he said.
His opinion is shared by other village volunteers who have been manning the region since the start of violent shootouts in the area.
Meanwhile, a security personnel (identity withheld) stationed in the area pointed out that the state forces had only defended against militant attacks and not indulged in any biased security measures till now.
“We do not have orders to carry out attacks. We are here to defend and that is what we have done. There have been no partial orders from the state government,” he said.
He stated that there were no red zones or buffer zones for state forces as all regions in Manipur were under the jurisdiction of the state government.
“We believe the conflict has dragged on because certains agendas are at play,” he said.
Although he failed to elaborate on his comment, he exuded confidence that there would be no seperate administration in Manipur.
It maybe mentioned that Kangchup, Kadangband, Koutruk and Senjam Chirang in Imphal West along the Kangchup hill range are hotspots for gunfights and till now no stringent security measures have been implemented to stop the violence.
It is also one of the most vulnerable battlefronts with straight access to greater Imphal.