Got No Ration, Say People In Churachandpur Relief Camps; Aid Trucks Set On Fire, Says Government

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Got No Ration, Say People In Churachandpur Relief Camps; Aid Trucks Set On Fire, Says Government

Some 18,000 people are living in 115 relief camps in Churachandpur

Imphal/Guwahati:

Two of 12 trucks and buses set on fire by protesters in Manipur’s Churachandpur district on February 15 contained relief material for internally displaced people, the state government said in a statement on Saturday, amid protest by people in the camps over shortage of ration.

The protesters had ransacked the offices of the district commissioner (DC) and the superintendent of police (SP) after a head constable from their community was suspended for allegedly training members of a hill-based armed group, who call themselves “village defence volunteers”.

Thousands of people living in the relief camps in Churachandpur, in a symbolic “empty pot” protest – showing empty bowls to the media – have alleged that ration supplied by the Centre stopped reaching them after the February 15 incident. Two members of the Kuki-Zo tribes were killed in the protest.

“… Due to rumours spread by antisocial and irresponsible elements in Churachandpur, a mob of 800 to 1,000 people ransacked and burnt the DC and SP offices on February 15. Twelve trucks and buses parked in the office complex were vandalised and burnt, two of which were carrying relief material for camps in Churachandpur district,” Manipur Joint Secretary (Home) Mayengbam Veto Singh said in the statement.

The DC has always ensured that all relief material and food items such as rice, dal, vegetables and other consumables reach the relief camps on time, the state government said in the statement.

“… The last release was done on February 12 and 13, where 50,000 kg of rice, 245 bags of dal, 55 bags of sugar, and other consumables such as vegetables, cooking oil, eggs, tea, and spices were distributed,” the government said.

Some 18,000 people are living in 115 relief camps in Churachandpur, and the Centre has been sending them food via Mizoram, local daily Imphal Free Press reported on February 23.

The protesters at some relief camps held placards that read “Denying food is the worst form of violence.”

The government refuted allegations it had delayed release of relief material, and pointed at the role of protesters in Churachandpur, including the Kuki-Zo group Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), for the disruption in aid supply.

“Multiple welfare measures have been initiated for displaced people with assistance from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the government assures to continue to do the same till all displaced people have been adequately rehabilitated,” the government said in the statement on Saturday.

It said threats by the ITLF to the DC and the police chief to leave Churachandpur have led to “mental agony” not only to the two officers, but among teams “working tirelessly throughout this period of violence for the welfare of displaced people across the state.”

The ethnic violence in Manipur over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies has dragged on for nine months now.

Both sides accuse each other of atrocities. The Kuki-Zo tribes say their “village defence volunteers” have been repelling attacks by armed groups from the valley, who come to the hills across the “buffer zone” with obvious intentions. Both call themselves “village defence volunteers”, a definition of the belligerents in Manipur that has become the most controversial since nothing stops these “volunteers” from killing people under the insurance provided by “in self-defence”.

The protesters alleged the head constable was suspended unfairly, and should be reinstated. The Kuki-Zo tribes have repeatedly alleged the involvement of the state police in attacking their villages. The police have refuted these allegations at every turn, and instead pointed at the alleged involvement of Kuki-Zo insurgents in bolstering “village defence volunteers”.

Over 180 have died in the violence, and thousands have been internally displaced.

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