The destruction of villages in north-east India’s Manipur state largely occupied by Christians is continuing, Premier Christian News has been told. A member of the tribal group known as the Kukis says that militants from the predominantly Hindu Metei people are responsible.
“The fighters haven't come as far as us yet. However, we know that they are about 20 kilometres away”, a woman Premier is calling ‘Kim’ described. “Speaking to some relatives earlier, they were telling me that the village next to them was completely burnt down”, she continued, “Even last night one hundred homes were burnt down”.
According to church groups in Manipur such as the Baptist Convention and the Presbyterians, dozens have people have died, over 200 churches have been burned and 50 thousand people internally displaced.
A separate message to Premier Christian Radio from a Manipur church leader urged British Christians not to forget them. “Could anyone of you or the British government help to stop the forces from destroying us completely?” he wrote. “Please help. I humbly plead for help”, he said.
Kim told Premier how she had narrowly escaped from an angry mob that surrounded her car as she was travelling home from a wedding in the city of Imphal. “People were gathering around with huge sticks and throwing stones at our vehicle, and really trying to break the vehicle”, she said.
“Smoke started coming out of the engine and we managed to reverse”, she added. “By this time, it was obviously pitch black. But they were very, very angry. Very, very angry. I've never seen, you know, such intense anger.” Kim went on to say how a Metei family looked after them until they reached safety.
The dispute rests on attempts by the Meteis to secure a special status with the government that gives them access to jobs and education opportunities. The Kukis as recognised tribals already have this status, but staged a protest rally when it was proposed that benefits are extended to Meteis.
According to ‘Kim’, state backed paramilitaries supported the reprisals that followed. “Directly from my relatives I've heard that the Manipur police, even the army and commandos have been joining in the violence”, she told Premier. “They've been joining in burning down the villages and even the killing and raping of innocent people”, she alleged.
Kim told Premier that the Christians targeted among the Kukis, with Metei believers suffering as well, needed “justice before there can be peace”.
She described how her cousins, uncles and aunts had been impacted in the capital, Imphal: “On the night of the third of May, their homes were completely attacked and burnt down. You know, they've even taken the doors off my uncle's home in Imphal and they all had to flee”, she said.
According to Kim, the tens of thousands of Kukis who have lost their homes are reliant on help from neighbouring villages. “In our churches and villages, community halls, is where we're taking care of thousands of displaced people at this point” she told Premier.