August 20, 2023
Manipur: AIDWA Central Team Witnesses a Horrifying Tragedy

Mariam Dhawale

From August 9-11, 2023, an AIDWA team comprising patron Brinda Karat, president P K Sreemathi, and general secretary Mariam Dhawale visited the strife-torn state of Manipur. This report is based on that visit.

WE could understand the utter grimness of the situation in Manipur only after visiting the state and interacting with the people there, especially women. The pristine beauty of the hills and forests, the clouds resting on the hill tops, the lush greenery around – but today none of this evokes feelings of happiness and joy. If tragedy and sorrow could create echoes, the sound of them would burst our ear drums!

Manipur is a state in pain. The divisions between the communities who have lived peacefully with each other is now deep. This is visible from both sides. The signs on the roads, houses, and shops reflect this divide. We spoke to a lot of people and especially to women. There is deep distrust and suspicion amongst them. Both sides feel very insecure and vulnerable. This insecurity is fuelled by the stopping of internet facilities. Rumours abound adding to the vulnerability. Nearly 5,000 colonies and many villages have been burnt to ashes. Properties have been looted. Thousands of people from both communities have fled from their homes. Relief camps have been set up. Barriers have been erected by both sides. The tribals have faced the brunt of the violence.The narrative spun by the BJP that they are all illegal immigrants has also fuelled the division. The division between people living together will take a very long time to be bridged.

We learnt through discussions with the people about the total failure of the state government in protecting them. The callous inaction of the Biren Singh government and abdication of its constitutional duty has angered the people of Manipur. The betrayal of trust by the government, administration and police has damaged the psyche of the people. They do not see any hope till this chief minister is removed. 

Who is paying the price for the narrow identity politics and the politics of hatred indulged in by the BJP state and central governments?

The barbarity that innocent citizens have had to face in Manipur is unprecedented. The victims of sexual violence narrated unspeakable atrocities committed on them. The bodies of women became sites for taking revenge. Neighbours, friends, colleagues overnight became enemies. Wounds inflicted by known people are much harder to overcome. Manipuri women have been known for their strength but today the biggest tragedy is that the politics of division and hatred by the ruling BJP has turned that strength into an instrument being used against women themselves. The trauma that they are suffering will impact them throughout their lives.


More than 55,000 people are in the 350 relief camps all over Manipur. They are staying in these relief camps for over three months now with no solution in sight. People are living in dire conditions in these camps. They do not know whether they will ever be able to go back to their homes. They do not know whether they have a home anymore. Children are still out of school in the hill areas. The sense of despair and sorrow is unimaginable. People feel a sense of humiliation living at the mercy of others with people’s hand-outs like old clothes.

There are no decent facilities in these camps. Women feel very embarrassed having to share their space with all in the relief camps including men. Ordinary everyday activities like bathing, changing clothes, lying down for a rest, etc have to be done in front of everyone including the elders. It has robbed them of their self-respect and dignity.

This is the monsoon season. The rains have made the situation worse. There is slush and mud around. Basic amenities are missing. There are old people, children, babies and pregnant women. Make shift toilets are made. How can the old and pregnant go to these toilets through the wet mud? What do they do if the need arises during the night?

Food and nutrition are a casualty. People are eating only dal and rice for three months. The government has not thought it fit to provide any other food material to the relief camps.

The common people who are in their own houses and not in these relief camps are also totally at a loss how to carry on with their lives in these hostile conditions. They do not have jobs, no other means of livelihood, and no money. Hundreds of families eat only once a day. The rations grains have been stopped. Only the 5 kg grains started during the Covid period is being given. Some schools in Imphal have started where relief camps have not been started. The Manipur unit of AIDWA has been trying to reach help to the distressed and displaced families. But due to the divide it is impossible to send any help to some parts of the state.

When we drove from Imphal to go to Churachandpur and Kangpokpi, the intensity of the divide became clear. While crossing the two areas, there was the “No man’s land” between them. Barbed wires, barricades, large stumps of trees separated the two areas. It appeared like a “war zone”. When entering Kangpokpi, our car was checked to see if any Meiteis were there with us. We passed through Mongpijang village. A board, “Meitei products banned” stared at our face. We saw similar offensive posters on both sides of the divide as we passed Moirang and other places.


1.      We visited Churachandpur which is now called as ‘Lamka’ by the locals. There are around 250 relief camps sheltering more than 15,000 people. It was heart-rending to meet the young girl and the older woman whose ordeal shocked the entire country. These women were handed over to the marauding mobs by the police. The desperation of the young girl’s teenage brother and father to save her could be felt when it was described to us. The brother clung tightly to his sister. He was dragged away, brutally beaten with sticks and his head was smashed. The father too was killed in a brutal manner.

Somehow, both the victims reached a relief camp. The young girl could not tell her mother of what had happened to her as she was already suffering because of the deaths of her son and husband. She kept her terrible ordeal buried within her for days together. The mother learnt of it only after the video surfaced. It broke her heart. She said, “I cannot express my grief in words. No amount of money can compensate our loss. We want help to fight this government and want a separate administration for ourselves. I want to see the dead bodies of my son and husband. Please help me to see them”. The district collector told us that their bodies are lying in the morgue in Imphal as the morgue in Bishnupur is full beyond its capacity. It has a capacity of 18 and actually 39 bodies were kept there. 

The older woman said, “We do not want any woman from any community to go through what we have suffered. My son was living in the hostel of a college. I had not seen him since March. Now I will never see him again. We want this to get over as soon as possible.”

2.      Lhingnei, mother of the girl who was abducted when she went to the ATM on May 15 spoke of her pain for what happened to her child. The father worked in the municipal council in Imphal and the mother cleaned toilets. They have two sons and two daughters. The girl, who was her third child among four children, studied till eighth standard and dropped out of school due to ill health. Since both parents were working, she looked after the home. They left Imphal on May 3 while the girl stayed on with her friend. She went to the ATM on May 15 from where she was abducted. She was gangraped and thrown from the hill top. She is alive and trying to cope with her trauma.

Now this family has no livelihood. Their youngest daughter has now taken admission in the ninth standard in the village school. Their son is in Delhi in search of some means of livelihood. The mother said with pain and anger, “Let this not happen to any girl and family. The culprits must be caught and stringent punishment must be given. No culprit should be spared.”

3.      Jangkholum is blind. He lost his eyesight 26 years ago. His wife is Hatlhing. This is a family of six. Their 18-year-old son, Letgunchon used to learn carpentry. Due to injury while working, he shifted as a trainee in an iron factory in Chingore in Imphal East. They had constructed their house four months ago with the money sent by their son. The parents were in the village. He called his mother on May 4 and told her that he did not feel safe. His mother told him to go to the house of the friend of his elder brother who was a Kuki. So, the mistry of the iron factory dropped him there.

On the morning of May 5, some Youth Club members started searching the place. They checked the Aadhaar cards to find out who were sheltering the Kukis. Thangminlen, a non-Manipuri who had sheltered him, and Letgunchon were both brutally killed and burnt. Their bodies have not been recovered. Nothing is known about what happened to their bodies.

Jangkholum cannot work due to his disability. He could not express his sorrow. He said, “I am numb. What is there to say? The BJP government did not protect us”. Their village, Phaimol in Saikul sub-division is totally burnt down. They are now in a relief camp.

4.      Two young girls who worked in a car wash were killed on May 4. We met the father of Florence, age 23, Paotinthang Haungshing and the mother of Olivia, age 21, Kimneih at Chongloi. They are from village Khopibung in Saikul sub-division. Their village was burnt on June 12. The parents fled the village and hid on the mountains. Now they are in a relief camp.

Olivia was the eldest of five children. Florence was the third among four children. Both the girls were good friends. Olivia was working in the car wash for a year. Florence joined her just a month ago. Olivia supported her family. Florence had a dream of starting her own parlour. Both the friends had decided that they would work in the car wash, earn enough money and then Florence could open her parlour. They excitedly waited for the day when Florence would start her parlour and then they would not have to endure the car wash for long. The girls were paid according to the number of cars they washed daily. They could earn Rs 5,000 to 7,000 per month.  Their dreams were brutally cut down.

The girls lived at the car wash itself. Florence spoke to her mother before the incident planning to be there for ‘Mother’s Day” which falls on May 14. The car wash owner told her mother that he would get Florence home for Mother’s Day. Kimneihat was worried and wanted Olivia to return home. But Olivia said that they would be safe. The car wash owner told them that he would take them to safety. They trusted him. But he did not. Kimneihat called her again. The phone was answered by a girl who spoke rudely and turned the phone off. The car wash owner too did not answer his phone. After that she was distraught that she could not get in touch with her daughter at all. Now both the girls are dead.

Now both the families are in the relief camp. There are no health facilities in the relief camp. Olivia’s father has gall bladder stones. There is no CT scan facility in Kangpokpi and they cannot go to Imphal. A surgery has been recommended for her husband. They will have to go to Kohima, Nagaland for this surgery, which is not possible for them.

Paotinthang said, “We are helpless and powerless. Our lives have been destroyed. We, all communities, are suffering”. The woman accompanying us said, “If they are after the militants, let them go after them. Why are they destroying a whole community? This is not why the people elected this BJP government. We do not know what lies ahead for us. It is like a war. No one feels safe today. Anything, even a rumour, can ignite a fire.”

5.      Joshua Hangshing is a man of very few words. He had a love marriage. He is a Kuki and his wife Meena was a Meitei. They had three children. They lived in Kangchup Chinghkhong village in Kangpokpi district. This village has a mixed population. Some houses in the village were burnt down. So, they shifted to the relief camp inside the Assam Rifles camp in a school.

When on June 4, Joshua went nearby to get water, his 7-year-old son Tonshing saw him from the window and shouted, “Papa, Papa”. A sniper’s bullet hit him. The Assam Rifles police did not take the boy immediately to the hospital. They informed the superintendent of police in Imphal. Three gypsy commandos were sent to this camp. They accompanied the boy, his mother and another woman, a family friend who were in the ambulance. The son was alive. They were going to take the boy to RIMS hospital in Imphal. Joshua did not go as he was a Kuki. He thought no harm would come to his wife as she was a Meitei.

The ambulance was stopped by a mob at Lamsang. But they were allowed to proceed. Later when they reached Iroisemba, the police disappeared. The mob stopped the ambulance. They started checking their Aadhaar cards. The mob started taunting the mother. They said, “You are a Meitei but have married a Kuki. You have converted to Christianity. You have become a Christian because you do not want to be cremated but buried. So, we will burn (cremate) you today. The 7-year-old son, his mother Meena and another woman friend were burnt alive in the ambulance. People known to Joshua informed him about this. We can never be able to understand the trauma that Joshua and his surviving son and daughter are undergoing because of the cruel killings of their beloved ones.  

6.      Jantinsat Khongsai, age 26, married Chongneo, age 24, in October 2022. They lived in the same area and fell in love. Jantinsat drives a vehicle picking up school children. His wife and mother left the village and went to the relief camp when the neighbouring villages were being burnt down. Their village was burnt on May 28.

Chongneo was pregnant with their first baby. She developed some complications and was taken to a private clinic. The charges of the clinic were Rs 15,000. When their village was burnt, Jantinsat could not save anything except the vehicle in which he reached the relief camp. The mother-in-law only had Rs 10,000 with her. They did not have any more money with them. So, she could not be admitted in this clinic. They went to the district hospital. No doctor was available in this hospital. Chongneo had a normal delivery. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy on June 24, 2023. They named him Paolensei. Post delivery she started bleeding heavily. The nurse on duty could not stop the bleeding. Chongneo lost consciousness and died on June 24. A healthy 24-year-old young woman lost her life due to the negligence of the health system.

7.      Lhingneikim Lhungdim married her husband, Jamksolal in January 2022. Both were 34 years old. They are from Khongsai Veng in Imphal West. Jamksolal was a peon in a school. She gave birth to a girl named Lamnunnen on April 30, 2023 in the Imphal Christian hospital where she is a staff nurse. It was a caesarean operation. She was discharged from the hospital on May 3. Due to the operation, she could not do any household work. Her maternal family was with her to help her out.

Their area was attacked on May 4. Lhingneikim tried to move to a safe place in a school nearby. She was in pain yet walked to the school with the help of her neighbours. The school was attacked. People started running away from the school. Her husband and her brother, Ngamthang tried to help her to run. They were attacked with stones, sticks and knives, badly beaten and killed in front of her and her mother. The brother has three children. His wife and children are safe. The children too saw the killings. The Imphal Christian hospital is also destroyed and all the medical equipment have been stolen.    

The mother-in-law took the baby and ran to a nearby locality where the Naga community lived. She knocked on the doors for help. No one took her in their house as they were afraid that they would be attacked if they helped her. She begged them and knocked again. Humanity won and they let her in. They also gave some milk powder for the baby.  

8.      Ibetombi from PhabakchaowIthie Awang Leikei lost her youngest son who was studying in class XI when a bomb was thrown on her house. She does not know who threw the bomb.

9.      We visited the two relief camps started in the ITI. Most of the people reached this camp on May 3 from the Dengnopal area. The village has been burnt to ashes. More than 700 men, women, including pregnant women and children are living in these two camps. A baby was born in this camp. The inmates of the camp are living in fear. All of them said that they are terrified of the situation. None of the children are going to school. The parents are worried about their education and future. Food is scarce and they have been eating only dal and rice for the past three months.

Janjnu, a single mother is very concerned about her children. She belongs to the Koiran tribe. Her husband was a Kuki. Her son, Haominlun is studying in the 12th class in the Kendriya Vidyalaya while her daughter is in the 10th class. She said that she has worked hard to bring up her two children. Now she is afraid about their future. She pleaded to get her children admission in a school.

10.  We visited the Salt Brook school run by the Seventh Adventist Church. The relief camp in this school has been set up by the Kuki Khanglai Lompi (KKL), a philanthropic organisation. 35 households consisting of 200 people are living in this camp. We found a family with four children with Down Syndrome living in this camp. Everyone here wanted to go back home. But they cannot say where home is any longer.

11.  The Santhong camp started on May 3. It is set up at the temple land of Ibudhou Santhong Ningthou Apanba Haraoba in Bishnupur district. There are 380 inmates in this relief camp. People from Turbung, Phaogakchao, Ikhai, Torenbal, Bangla, Waiksurok and Saiton villages are in this camp. 70 per cent of the houses in Turbung have been burnt. The police ran away when the mobs attacked the village. No government official has visited this camp. Only the local people and NGOs have helped this camp. The MLA has supplied them water and light.

Minika Mairangthem, age 28, from Phaogakchao village is deeply distressed. She said, “All communities have lived together happily for so long. I used to grow and sell vegetables. Outsiders have created these problems. They first came and looted all our precious belongings. Then my house was burnt down in front of my eyes. Our own villagers, who knew us, participated in the burning of our houses. We have nowhere to go now. We are living in these miserable conditions for more than three months. How long can we go on living like this! Our land has been distributed among the local people. The Assam Rifles asked us to leave and have helped them.

14.  The Thongju Kendra relief camp is running in the Ideal College, Akampat, Imphal East. There are 1,000 inmates in this camp from Moreh since May 8. The local volunteers are trying to make identity cards for them. Dr Radhika, a psychologist visits this camp to help the traumatised people. 123 children here have been recently admitted to class 1 to 10 in the local schools nearby. People are falling sick in these camps.

We saw a woman learning to weave silk thread. She told us that she used to run a small hotel earlier. Now she is here with her entire family. She makes 250 grams of silk thread in one week. She works for 8-10 hours a daily. She receives Rs 700 per week for 250 grams of the silk thread. This means Rs 100 per day.

15.  There were more than 1000 people in the Naorembirahari College relief camp. Due to lack of space 700 have been shifted to the Khumanlampak camp. People from Ekou, Dolaithabi and Saduyangkhumang villages came to the camp on May 5. Some women from this camp are going to nearby fields to work as agricultural labourers.        

12.  We spoke to a Reverend father. He requested us not to name him. He questioned, are we not Indians and humans? How is it that this mayhem has been allowed to continue for more than 100 days? We have lost everything. We do not have a voice. Will we be allowed to live like all Indian citizens? This has been created by the political administration. Their ideology is a threat to our existence. The Kukis and Meiteis are both victims of the ‘Look East’ policy which is all about corporate wealth. They are eyeing the natural resources in Manipur.

13.  Chingboi, president of the Zumi Mothers Association told us how they saved 22 orphans from the orphanage in Torbung Bangla. The children were extremely frightened by the firing and burning. They had run out of the orphanage and were hiding near the river bed. Chingboi rushed to the orphanage with two vehicles and brought the children to safety.

16.  Sarat Salam from Imphal told us that all women, all mothers spend sleepless nights. Their sons from both the communities are moving around with guns or in mobs and they cannot do anything to stop it. So, thousands of women come out on the roads to keep a watch day and night. The police and government have not done anything.

There are innumerable such disturbing stories of people’s lives being destroyed.


We met the district collector, Dharun Kumar S of Churachandpur. This is his first posting. He agreed when we narrated our observations of deprivation and disaster. Health facilities are not accessible. Since most of the doctors are from the Meitei community, they have left the hospitals in the hill areas. He promised to help in the rehabilitation of the displaced people through certain government schemes. He told the delegation that he would try his best to get the dead bodies which are in the morgue in Imphal, for burial as soon as it is possible. Bishnupur district was allotted Rs 2 crores from the Rs 101 crore given by the central government for relief work. Most of the relief is reaching the people through philanthropic organisations.

The AIDWA delegation met the governor, Anusuiya Uikey. We narrated the tales of woe and despair that they had seen during their interactions with the people of Manipur. We told her that the people said that nothing will change as long as Biren Singh continues to be the chief minister and that he must be removed immediately. He has lost the confidence of the people. We apprised her of the dismal conditions in the relief camps. The governor said that she is deeply concerned by the violence in Manipur. She has met the victims and was trying to reach help to them. She also said that she was happy that the Supreme Court has taken note of the situation in Manipur.

AIDWA delegation will meet the president, Draupadi Murmu to apprise her of the horrific situation seen by the team in Manipur.

This is the horrific situation in Manipur for the last over three months. Like emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt, emperor Modi is fiddling while Manipur burns.

AIDWA has demanded that

1)      The chief minister, Biren Singh must be immediately removed.

2)      Proper assessment must be made of the losses that the people of Manipur have suffered, and adequate compensation must be given.

3)      The administration must start the process of rehabilitation of all whose houses have been burnt.

4)      All people should be given 10 kgs free grains and the PDS must also start functioning.

5)      Alternative livelihood opportunities must be provided for the jobless.

6)      Steps should be taken to start the facilities for resuming education of all students.

7)      Health facilities must be provided to all the needy.

8)      The culprits responsible for rapes, gangrapes, murder and violence must be immediately arrested.