The Kuki community in Manipur's Kangoi subdivision has taken up arms to safeguard their village from external threats. With a strong sense of unity and a commitment to protecting their land, the village youth have formed a defense force, arming themselves with single barrel guns, authorized by valid licenses obtained from the Manipur government.
Speaking from an outpost located strategically along the village's boundary, one Kuki man, who has been actively involved in guarding and protecting their community, shared his thoughts. "We are solely responsible for protecting our village, and we have never initiated any offensive actions," he asserted. "Our primary focus is defense. We have witnessed past incidents where our village was attacked by Meitei individuals, allegedly supported by local authorities. It led to the devastating loss of 58 houses, including two private schools, a poultry house, and even a police outpost."
The recent outbreak of ethnic violence in Manipur has resulted in a tragic loss of 71 lives and has left numerous individuals displaced, causing a significant exodus in the small state with a population of 3.6 million. According to stakeholders familiar with the situation, a substantial number of people from the Kuki tribe have been forced to abandon their homes in the valley regions, while members of the Meitei community are fleeing from the hills.
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an organization collaborating with the state's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to restore peace, has reported that a staggering 7,472 Meiteis have migrated from the hill districts to the Imphal valley. Additionally, around 5,200 Kukis have left Imphal and its surrounding areas since the outbreak of violence on May 3.
Letzamang Haokip, the BJP MLA representing Henglep in Churachandpur district, where the initial incident of arson occurred on May 3, revealed that thousands of Kukis are now returning to the hills.
In Manipur, the affluent Meitei community, which is predominantly composed of Hindu Vaishnavs, constitutes 53% of the population, while the remaining 44% is represented by 33 tribes, including the Kukis and Nagas.
Manipur consists of nine districts, with five situated in the hill areas where these tribes primarily reside. The tribal communities largely sustain themselves through traditional jhum (slash and burn) cultivation. On the other hand, the Meiteis are concentrated in the four districts spread across the valleys.
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