As the unrest in Manipur which erupted in May 3, 2023 crosses eight months in the strife torn state, the locals of Senjam Chirang, a village which has bore the brunt of frequent onslaught by armed Kuki militants, desperately await for a definite answer to question of “when will this conflict finally come to an end?”
Situated at the foothills under Imphal West district, Senjam Chirang is among the Meitei villages neighbouring Kuki settlements. Ever since the crisis erupted in the state, the village has endured bullets, arson and various attacks from Kuki militants to this day.
Meira paibi secretary of the village, Ambrapati told the Imphal Free Press that the question of when this conflict will finally get over is on the minds of the villagers every passing day.
She recalled that Kuki militants attacked the village on May 7 and killed a villager while leaving around 24 people injured.
After some time, the village became the centre of a full-blown battle after Kuki militants launched another attack, during which an MR of the Manipur Police was killed, she said.
In further attacks, village volunteers who were guarding the village were killed after being hit by bullets fired by Kuki militants. She further said that the village has a small population and is situated at the foothills.
The clashes which erupted on May 3 and the following fear and tensions remain afresh among the villagers. During the night time, Kuki militants still continue to fire towards the village from nearby hills.
“The situation is the same at nearby villages at Kanto, Singda etc. We have been suffering together,” she said. Although we are still facing the barrage of bullets from Kuki militants, the deployment of state forces at the village has given the village some respite, she added.
She continued that the villagers are not working any government jobs; they are simple farmers, daily wagers, and most of them live hand to mouth. Following the conflict, they have completely stopped doing any agricultural activity near the foothills. They are able to do farming activity only at a small portion of the entire paddy fields, she said.
On top of this, all the male household members are engaged with the work to defend the village while the rest are afraid of freely moving out to do livelihood activities over fear of facing another brutal attack by Kuki militants. This has led to the villagers going through untold miseries, she lamented.
She further said that every household in the village is facing extreme shortages of money and food. They are unable to afford education for their children and apprehensive of their academic careers, she mentioned.
It is the only wish of the Semjam Chirang villagers that a definite and a lasting solution to the long-drawn conflict be reached by the Central and the state government, so that the villagers can finally return back to their former lives with restoration of normalcy, she aids.
This IFP correspondent also came across meira paibis braving the biting cold of the prevailing winter and defending the village from the next attack.