• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Former residents of Imphal’s Pait Weng revive their ‘Kristalnach’

Former residents of Imphal’s Pait Weng revive their ‘Kristalnach’

On the evening of May 3, a prominent anthropologist and author of the Kuki sub-tribe, Dr. H Kamkhenthang was studying in the library of his bungalow, which he had accumulated with his life’s savings, in Paite Veng, Imphal.

Suddenly, a mob gathered near the area, pelted stones and shouted slogans asking the residents to leave. Manipur was tense throughout the day with demonstrations and protests in Churachandpur and Imphal, some of which turned violent.

“It was like Kristallnacht in Germany … mobs started attacking our houses as ethnic tensions broke out,” said Hoinu Hausel, a freelance journalist and daughter of a well-known researcher on northeastern tribes.

“I called the chief minister and other ministers and asked for help… I allowed the mob to rampage for two or three hours,” she told PTI, recalling the night Manipur’s communal harmony was shattered.

Her elderly father and other family members had to use a ladder to escape to a Meite neighbor’s house. Paite Veng is a colony in the heart of Imphal where many wealthy Paite tribal and Meitei families lived.

“Everyone I called offered help, promised army rescue … but the reality was that the army was sent in too late,” Housel claimed.

Their next-door neighbor, Vungkham Hangso from the Pait Somi community, and his wife Madhumati Khwairakpam, Meiti, were after dinner at their home on the main road leading to the small but posh area.

Their daughter Manchin said, “All of a sudden there was a banging on power poles. It is a call sign used in Manipur to gather a mob, and it came – shouting, drinking and throwing stones. The church opposite our house was burnt and later we realized it was our turn. Survivors remember that there was glass all around. Those trying to leave with goods were robbed of their bags and some were physically assaulted. Others were given way by neighbors who were part of the crowd.

Manchin carried his 86-year-old mother, leaving her home for the last time.

Nearby, her brother, Yu Thanqanlian, 56, had begun to move to a neighborhood hotel run by Maytis for safety, where Manchin and her family first fled to safety.

“Even though the police came, they remained silent spectators,” Tankhanlian said. First they overturned cars, then set them on fire, and then burned houses.

“It appears to be pre-planned … the mob has had time to wreak havoc on Kuki and mixed-marriage homes in our area,” he added.

“The beautiful houses we grew up in were engulfed in flames.” The elderly anthropologist, Thankhanlian, Manchin and several neighbors who escaped the mob were eventually rescued by the army and taken to the camp. Most took off to neighboring states to escape the madness that followed.

About 40 houses and a church in the quiet little neighborhood were lost forever that night.

A brick kiln and farms owned by the Housel family on the outskirts of Imphal were targeted.

“Tractors, JCBs and furnace machines were all destroyed overnight,” Hoinu Housel said.

The assailants scrawled in large letters on the wall of the property – ”Can’t sell, can’t buy”.

All the Pait Veng residents, who are now living in various places in neighboring states or Delhi, have said they will not return.

“No trust, no peace,” Manchin said.

”We have to start life anew, somewhere else…there’s no other way that I can see,” Tankhanlian said.

(This story has not been edited by DavidDiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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