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Manipur remains as bitterly divided as before: Harsh Mander asks MPs to intervene

By Harsh Mander* 
I am taking the extraordinary step of writing to all Members of the Indian Parliament after I traveled in Manipur seven months after it had exploded with violence and hate. I encountered a land still badly broken -- smoldering, wounded and aching.
I found first that the informal border that separates the two bitterly warring communities, the Meiteis and Kukis, remains as stubborn and unbending as it was when they first took up arms against the other. Half a dozen check-posts manned by a variety of military, paramilitary and police formations search you for weapons as you pass, like in a war zone.  
This informal border between the Meitei valley and Kuki hills is so unyielding that even the ten Kuki MLAs, including a state minister, cannot still cross from the hills into the Imphal valley for fear for their lives. Kuki doctors, nurses, police persons, teachers and other government officials similarly fear that they will be killed if they return to the valley to work, as do Meitei health, education, police and other public officials if they are to journey from the valley to the hills. Public officials have redistributed themselves between the valley and the hills based on their respective identities. Many specializations lie vacant in the Churachandpur Medical College because Meitei doctors had to flee to the valley and cannot return.
The border is also pitiless. 109 bodies of Kuki men, women and children killed during the violence lay in the mortuary of the medical college in Imphal for seven months, until finally the Supreme Court intervened and bodies of 64 victims were airlifted on 14 December. Up to then no arrangements had been made to secure their safe transport from the valley to the hills, and it was not possible for the families of the dead to travel to Imphal to claim their dead for fear of being murdered along the way. In the mortuary of the Churachandpur Medical College, another 46 bodies lay. The Kuki people awaited the return of the corpses from Imphal before all the killed people were buried side by side in keeping with their customs.
The movement of trucks from the valley to the hills transporting supplies of food and medicine and security personnel have been blockaded all these months. The result is that even the government medical college in Churachandpur is forced to depend only on citizen contributions to secure food and medicines for the patients and medical students. These stocks are delivered after an arduous 14-hour journey through mountain roads from Mizoram instead of the one-hour drive from Imphal.
Wrenching also are the conditions in the 119 relief camps in the hills from which the state is almost entirely absent. An estimated 45,500 children, women and men continue to languish seven months after the savagery began in the most inhospitable makeshift camps to which they fled after their villages and homes were looted and burnt to ashes. The large majority of these camps in the hills are in the courtyards of churches. Food is austere, sanitation primitive and children unschooled.
The loss of the residents in relief camps in both the hills and the valley is profound – of homeland, loved ones, home, friends, trust and an entire way of life. The senior pastor who leads a lot of the relief work spoke to me of the sharp spike in drug usage by young people who found themselves trapped in the darkest of despair. Despair deepens further because people battered by the violence encounter few public expressions of remorse, little legal justice, too small an attempt to confiscate the massive cache of firearms looted from police armories, and no let-up on the propaganda of hate.
Even after seven months, a very tiny trickle of people has returned to their villages, barely a few hundred. These too are only young men trying to cultivate their fields even at risk to their lives to better feed their families in the camps. People of both communities are convinced that it is impossible for them to return to their old burnt down habitations to live side by side with the estranged community again.
But they also recognize that they cannot live in relief camps forever. The critically urgent task that lies ahead is of reconstructions of homes, habitations, livelihoods, schools and health-centres in locations and ways that communities feel safe to restart and rebuild their lives again. I found that many people subsisting in camps are ready for this. They have detailed plans in place. What they need now is resources to operationalise these plans.
We must of course call upon the central and state governments to open up their purses and massively contribute to these tasks of reconstruction. However, this will take time.
45,500 children, women and men continue to languish in inhospitable makeshift camps seven months after the savagery began 
The humanitarian imperative is that we must collectively finds ways to ensure that children, women and older people do not have to continue to live in relief camps a day longer than is absolutely unavoidable.
It is for this reason that I am reaching out to each of the Members of Parliament to consider contributing a significant grant for this rebuilding process from their discretionary fund of MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Areas Development Scheme).
For this purpose, I have identified two leading and highly reputed community citizen organizations that work for relief and rehabilitation with the Kuki and Meitei people respectively. These are the Kuki Khanglai Lawmpi, Churachandpur, and the United Voluntary Youth Council, Imphal. Their details are in the annexure to this letter. I have no association of any kind with these organizations. But I have inquired and trust these organizations that they will use every rupee sent to them responsibly for the purpose of rebuilding the homes, habitats, livelihoods, schools and health centres of the people internally displaced as a result of the conflict in the state.
If people’s representatives from every corner of the country indeed contribute to the task of rebuilding Manipur, it would constitute a gesture of luminous solidarity of the people of India with the suffering people of Manipur. It would demonstrate that Manipur has not fallen off the national conscience. That the people of India care and stand with the Manipuri people.  

Annexure

Details of the proposed organizations:
1. Kuki Khanglai Lawmpi Churachandpur (KKL) is a non-political philanthropic organisation registered as a society in 1988 with the motto of “helping the helpless”. All its employees work on a voluntary basis. In the current crisis, KKL looks after 63 camps with more than 10,000 internally displaced persons, ensuring for the residents food, shelter, clothing and health care. However, as the months pass, relief is increasingly challenging because most of this is based on local donations.
Regd.No: 142/RR/1988
Bank Account : Kuki Khanglai Lawmpi (GHQ)
Account No. : 35122102631
IFSC CODE : SBIN0015027
Branch : State Bank of India Tuibong Branch, Manipur
2. United Voluntary Youth Council ( UVYC) is a registered organisation under the Societies Registration Act. It was established in 1984 with the objectives of protection and promotion of vulnerable youths, women and children. It also runs Drug De-addiction Centres and works with persons with disabilities.
 Registration No. 5380 of 1984
 Email Address : uvycyouth2000@yahoo.co.in
Contact person details of the Organisation :- K Maharabi Singh, Secretary General , Phone no: 9586135059
Bank Details :
Bank Name: Punjab National Bank
Account Holder Name: United Voluntary Youth Council Account no: 2775002100007146
IFSC code: PUNB0048420
Bank Address: PaonaBazar, ImphalWest, Manipur-795001  
---
*Senior civil society leader, former IAS officer

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