‘Vulnerable from both sides’: Naga colony caught in Manipur strife | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Vulnerable from both sides’: Naga colony caught in Manipur strife

By, New Keithelmanbi, Manipur
Nov 30, 2023 06:48 AM IST

Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes between Meiteis, based primarily in Imphal Valley, and tribal Kukis, who are in majority in nearby hill districts, since May

In Manipur’s New Keithelmanbi , it’s hard to miss the new (and prominent) signs painted outside houses. Rongmoi Naga says one. Rongmoi Kabuii says another.

The Naga Colony in New Kethelmanbi is home to around 50 houses (HT)
The Naga Colony in New Kethelmanbi is home to around 50 houses (HT)

Fresh rains have washed some signs away, but these have been replaced with print-outs on A4 paper.

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This is a Naga colony, and the residents want to make sure it is recognized as one in a state where ethnic violence between the Kukis and Meteis has finally ebbed after seven months. New Keithelmanbi has seen its share of that, being home to both Kukis and Meiteis. The Naga Colony in New Kethelmanbi is home to around 50 houses.

About 500m from the colony are houses that belong to the Nepalese and the Meitei residents. On the other side are houses of Kukis, all abandoned after being torched in the first few days of violence that started on May 3.

Residents said the Naga Colony is in the so-called buffer zone between Imphal West(Meiteis ) and Kangpokpi(Kukis).

“Our village is sensitive so there is an army post here. There are multiple check posts of the army to ensure that militants do not cross from one side to the other. Nagas have not been involved in ethnic clashes. But our place is right next to both Kuki and Meitei settlements. Nearly two dozen houses were burnt in the nearby areas, so displaying our identity is important,” said Reing Chettri, a Nepali resident and the caretaker of a Naga house.

Buffer zones are areas guarded by security forces to ensure that one tribe doesn’t cross it to go to the other side and indulge in violence.

”We are vulnerable from both sides. Our village chief instructed all homes here to display the name (of the tribe),”said Joshua Rong, another resident.

The painted or printed-out names outside houses isn’t new, or exclusive to New Keithelmani. Nagas started doing it across the state in May. But with violence ebbing and security forces increasing their presence, most did not bother to repaint or replace signs that were washed away or destroyed.

But not in New Keithelmani. A security officer in the village who did not want to be identified, said, “The harvest season for pulses is about to start. Meiteis are working in the fields near the Naga Colony. The fields are adjoining the hills. The Kuki houses are empty. In other parts of the state, there have been reports of snipers from hills firing at farmers.” The signs are meant as insurance.

Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes between Meiteis, based primarily in Imphal Valley, and tribal Kukis, who are in majority in nearby hill districts, since May. The violence has killed at least 181 and displaced 50,000.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prawesh Lama covers crime, policing, and issues of security in Delhi. Raised in Darjeeling, educated in Mumbai, he also looks at special features on social welfare in the National Capital.

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