‘People are still dying and the wounds run deep’

‘You can still hear gunshots, and this time even children know they are not normal.’

Linthoingambi Laishram aka Lin, an internationally-renowned model from Manipur, a national-level archer, an entrepreneur with her own jewellery line and an actress seen in films like Om Shanti Om, Mary Kom and Rangoon, is a worried woman today.

Her home state has been burning for almost four months and it has left her anxious not just for her elderly parents and family, but also neighbours and friends from the Kuki community despite being a Meitei herself.

Trying to make sense of the unprecedented violence, including horrific crimes against women, Lin tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor NRoshmila Bhattacharya, “The horrific viral video of the two Kuki women who were abducted, stripped, molested and sexually attacked has shaken me to the core.”


I’ve grown up hearing the sound of gunfire and thinking it’s normal

It was on Sunday, April 30, that I was alerted to trouble brewing in Manipur via a picture sent to me by a friend.

I could see shadows huddled in front of a building which was up in flames, the orange blaze illuminating the darkness of the night.

Reportedly, an unknown miscreant had partially burnt down a proposed open gym at the PT Sport Complex in New Lamka, Churachandpur, which was to be inaugurated by Chief Minister N Biren Singh on April 28.

Back then, I didn’t take what I thought was a stray incident seriously because sporadic episodes of violence have been happening off and on in my home state for years.

The emergence of insurgency in Manipur dates back to 1964 with the formation of the United Liberation Front, followed by a slew of other militant outfits, and the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in 1980.

I’ve grown up hearing the sound of gunfire and thinking it was normal.

It was only after I left home for further studies that I realised this was not normal.


I began to be fear for the safety of my family living in one of the worst affected parts of Imphal

I had planned a trip home in June, but by May 3, the situation had worsened and I began to get anxious.

Around May 4 or 5, I posted a video on social media, urging my people, irrespective of which community they belong, to sit across the table from each other and resolve their differences.

But the violence only escalated with every passing day and I began to fear for the safety of my family living in one of the worst affected parts of Imphal.

My parents are 70 plus and on daily medication which they were finding difficult to access.

I tried to send them the medicines from Mumbai, but delivering them was difficult and it made me feel so helpless.

My nephew, who wants to study music, flew down to Mumbai to enroll in a college here, but his 10-year-old sister remained behind with my brother.

We have lots of infants, toddlers and youngsters in our family, the children of cousins, and I feel really sorry for these kids.

After being locked in their homes for a couple of years because of the pandemic, they were excited to return to school.

But since May, schools have been opening and shutting and reopening.

My parents won’t move, they say no one can drive them away from their home

The first thing the state government did when trouble started was to block the Internet. That cut off all communication.

With houses being torched and electricity switched off as a precautionary measure, mobile phones couldn’t be charged.

Daily curfews, imposition of Section 144 and ‘shoot at sight’ orders made life very difficult and cut Manipur off from the rest of the country.

Whenever I was able to get in touch with my parents and brother, they would tell me that firing was continuing.

I invited my parents several times to come and stay with me here in Mumbai, but they won’t move.

They say this is their home and no one can drive them away from their home.

There are as many as 30 tribes in Manipur

There have been clashes between the Meiteis and the Kukis for decades, but the situation never escalated to this extent.

I wish we knew what has triggered it so we can look for solutions.

It’s not as if these are the only two communities, there are as many as 30 tribes in Manipur.

And this is not even about ‘Scheduled Caste’ rights and privileges, there are layers to the problem that have to be peeled.

I’m a proud Meitei woman myself, but along with my family, I’m also deeply concerned about neighbours and friends, some of whom are from the Kuki community, and have been making enquiries to ensure they are safe.


I have always felt safe in Manipur

The horrific viral video of the two Kuki women who were abducted, stripped, molested and sexually attacked has shaken me to the core.

It’s hard to believe that such a heinous crime against women was committed in Manipur in broad daylight, and that there have been more such crimes.

Despite incidents of sporadic violence in the past, I have always felt safe in Manipur.

I’m a proud Meitei woman, our women have been running the society and the economy.

Nowhere in the world is there a market run entirely by women.

Our women have always been hugely respected, within the community and outside.

We need to understand what is driving men, some of them teenagers, to commit such terrible acts.


In 2004, 30 women marched to the headquarters of the Assam Rifles

Yes, there was an incident in 2004, when the bullet ridden, mutilated body of Thangjam Manorama, a 32-year-old Manipuri woman, was found abandoned three kilometres from her home from where she had been arrested the night before.

Investigations revealed that she had been raped and tortured before she was killed.

Five days after her murder, around 30 middle-aged women, calling themselves ‘Manorama’s Mothers’, marched through Imphal to the headquarters of the 17thAssam Rifles, the paramilitary unit responsible for the crime, daring them to do the same to them.

The protests continued with Padma Shri author M K Binodini Devi returning her award and the Justice Varma Committee asking for AFSPA to be reviewed as one of the measures to reduce violence against women.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered the government to pay her family a compensation of Rs 10 lakh.


Working with relief camps in Manipur, I know the ground reality.

Our women fought against the British, and after Independence, they have battled it out in the sporting arenas,

Boxers MC Mary Kom and Sarita Devi, weightlifters Kunjarani Devi and Mirabai Chanu, footballers Bemdem Devi and Bala Devi and archer Bombela have brought the country awards in plenty.

Our women have also made a name for themselves in courts of law, in the civil service, in every field possible.

Even today, they are in the forefront, guarding their villages from dusk to dawn, and manning check posts during the day.

Of late, politicians and the media have been asserting that things have been under control all along.

That life is back to normal now.

But working with relief camps in Manipur, I know the ground reality.

You can still hear gunshots, and this time even children know they are not normal.

People are still dying and the wounds run deep

These last three months a lot of people have been hurt, many have lost their homes and some even their lives.

People are still dying.

The wounds run deep.

Things are not going to improve overnight.

It will take time and a lot of love for them to heal.

On Saturday, July 28, a mass rally against Chin-Kuki narco-terrorism and a public convention was organised by the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, along with CSO members, activists and common people, at Hapta Kangjeibung in Imphal.

Thousands took to the streets in the capital city opposing demand for a separate administration in the state and instead appealing for peace and solidarity.

It resolved that a special session of the Manipur assembly be called by August 5 to adopt action-oriented resolutions for restoring normalcy and saving the state.

Every morning I wake up hoping what is happening in Manipur is just a bad dream.

  • Manipur’s Tragedy

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