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Manipur violence: State is 'culpably absent' from relief and rehabilitation of victims

By Jatin Sharma 

Karwan-e-Mohabbat (Caravan of Love), a citizen initiative from 2017 which has strived to reach out to victims of hate violence to offer solace and solidarity to the survivors in far corners of the country, spent four days in violence-torn Manipur from July 25 to July 28. Team Karwan e Mohabbat undertook a journey to Manipur to attempt to understand the nature and scale of the conflict and to offer support to victims of hate violence and to assess relief efforts by the state and the central government. 
They have documented their findings from the journey and a set of recommendations to address the suffering of the people of Manipur and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the state presently in a report released on 26 August 2023 titled "The Humanitarian Crisis in Manipur: A Karwan e Mohabbat Report."
The Karwan team to Manipur included veteran journalist John Dayal, community physicians Dr Meena Isaac and Dr Randall Sequeira, community psychiatrist Dr Rajesh Isaac, Surender Pokhal from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), Director of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) Jatin Sharma, Karwan Media Fellow Imaad ul Hassan, Karwan community leader from Assam Mirza Lutfar, a Research Fellow at the CES Akanksha Rao, and peace worker and author Harsh Mander.
Over four days and three nights, the Karwan team travelled to parts of Imphal and Churachandpur/ Lamka, on both sides of the virtual border that tears apart Manipur in this frenzy of state-enabled violence.The team met with internally displaced people (IDP) in relief camps, and community leaders, women and youth activists and political leaders. This visit was made possible due to the support and guidance of two community leaders -- human rights defender Babloo Loitongbam and pastor Reverend Jangkholam Haokip.
The primary finding of the report is that the state is absent in its foremost constitutional duty to protect civilians and to ensure justice for the crimes against humanity; it is culpably absent from relief and rehabilitation efforts. There was a visible disparity between the condition of the Meitei camps and the Kuki camps, though both failed in establishing adequate conditions of safety for the displaced and affected civilians.
The focus of the report is on the humanitarian crisis of the internally displaced persons, and what must be done immediately to alleviate and prevent further human suffering in Manipur. The key recommendations of the report are as follows:
1. The union and state government must announce a comprehensive relief and rehabilitation program for all affected people, including but not restricted to compensation for death, sexual violence, injury, disability, and loss of moveable and immoveable property.
Dignified relief camps should continue for as long as the residents do not feel safe to return to their normal lives of the past. People should be assisted by the government to rebuild their homes at places where they wish to return, as well as to rebuild other public services and institutions that might have been destroyed like schools, water supply, sanitation, ICDS centres, sub-health centres and ration shops.
For IDPs who have shifted to other states, the union government should coordinate with the respective state governments for a comprehensive registration of all these persons, and extend to them financial resources and a clear mandate for relief, house rent support, schooling and medical care for the IDPs in the respective states.
2. The state government, with strong and visible support from the union government, must take direct leadership of financing and governing all relief and rehabilitation services for people hit by the ongoing warlike conflict. Also, systematic participation of residents must be ensured in camp management. The Chief Secretary for the entire state, and the District Collectors of each district, must be directly accountable to ensure that every relief camp fulfils standards laid down by the National Disaster Management Agency and international standards for IDP relief camps. Each camp should be managed 24x7 by teams of government officials appointed by the DCs.
3. The state government must ensure that blockades on the movement of food, medical and other essential supplies are firmly removed, and safe passage of all such transport is ensured. It should urgently establish a safe road corridor in and out of the valley towards the north and south for humanitarian aid and ambulances, outlawing searches and confiscation by any citizen group of the aid passing over from hill to valley or vice versa.
4. With immediate effect, the state government must restore its full presence and responsibilities in the hill regions of the state. This would include responsibility to supply food for patients, staff and medical students, as well as drugs and diagnostics, in the medical hospital and medical college in Churachandpur/Lamka. The state government should establish both an air ambulance service as well as supply at least three critical care ambulances for transporting critically ill and injured patients from Churachandpur to Aizawl or Guwahati.
5. All camps must be housed in government buildings like stadiums and college buildings. These must be spacious and well-ventilated, with good drainage, safe sewage & waste disposal. Permanent toilets with good sewage drainage for all categories women, men and those with frailties and disability must be built within a short time frame.
6. Each camp should have adequate numbers of fully staffed and resourced temporary mini-ICDS centres and at least one ASHA worker for every 200 residents. These should provide the resident children and pregnant and lactating mothers a full range of services including supplementary nutrition, growth monitoring, vaccination and early childhood education, and also engage with the vertical programs such as for TB and HIV. Free and regular supply of sanitary napkins, and sufficient quantities of clean clothes and undergarments, and bathing and washing soap must be ensured for all residents.
7. The state and union governments must ensure the provision of -- free rations for every IDP under the National Food Security Act, regardless of whether or not they have ration cards and for as long as they are not able to return to their homes; for those above 60 years, disabled or a single woman pensions must be given at twice the regular rate for as long as they are in the camps; a special employment guarantee program on the lines of MGNREGA for all residents of relief camps (including those in urban areas) that guarantee them at least 200 days of employment a year; and special services for residents to be able to register criminal complaints with the police; and for getting duplicate copies of Aadhar cards, ration cards, voter identity cards, pension cards, MGNREGA job cards etc.
8. The state government must ensure that all schools in both the valley and the hills are reopened forthwith. Where buildings are damaged, temporary structures should be built to house the students on priority. All the necessary measures such as safe transport, active enrolling of children of all ages in the schools nearest to the relief camps, and sport & recreational activities for enhanced participation of children must be taken forthwith.
9. The state government, with the help of premier mental health institutions like NIMHANS, Bangalore, should establish a major program for mental health care and drug de-addiction, along with an extensive network of at least two community mental health workers in every relief camp.
10. Humanitarian agencies would have a special role in helping official efforts for essential supplies, education, health care, child care, sanitation and youth activities.
11. Visible peace building measures between the two estranged communities must be organised, starting with the safe return of the bodies in morgues, developing neutral venues and appointing moderators and conflict resolution specialists to mediate dialogues between mid-level civil society, tribal chief and church and youth groups, counselling for individuals with a focus on youth and hope and dream building of a peaceful future, moves towards legal actions against known perpetrators of the violence, and sharing stories of hope and shared culture between the two communities.
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