Manipur Horror: Freedom Fighter’s 80-year-old wife burnt alive on May 28

Imphal:  In another horrifying case of ongoing ethnic violence reported from Manipur after the parading of two naked women in Kangpokpi district on May 4, the octogenarian widow of a freedom fighter was locked inside her house and it set on fire by an armed group in Manipur’s Kakching district.

Belonging to Meitei community, S. Ibetombi Maibi, the wife of the freedom fighter S. Churachand Singh, who died few years back at 80, was locked inside her house before the armed assailtants set on fire her home at Serou village on May 28, according to a FIR filed recently with Serou police station.

Churachand Singh, who was a member of the Indian National Army headed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, was honoured by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and awarded Netaji Award by All India Forward Bloc in April 1997.

The tragic incident occurred amidst the ethnic violence in Manipur including in the Serou village, 48 km from the state capital Imphal.

Burnt bones of Ibetombi Maibi, half-burnt photographs, medals, mementos of Churachand Singh, many valuables, domestic materials, burnt houses and bullet holes on the walls are now displaying the undreamed off horror.

“When the heavily armed assailants attacked our house, my mother-in-law asked me and other neighbours to flee and after some time, come back or send someone to rescue her after the attackers leave the place. Due to her old age and limited mobility, she could not flee. Accordingly, I and the neighbours of three other families ran away,” Ibetombi Maibi’s daughter-in-law, S. Tampaksana said.

She said that after a few hours, she asked 22-year-old Premkanta Meitei, a relative of Ibetombi Maibi, to rescue her.

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Premkanta Meitei said that when he, along with few others, reached the spot to rescue her, the blaze had engulfed the entire house and the elderly woman charred to death. The rescuers were also immediately forced to escape again as the attackers again started firing and he was also hit by bullets.

About the May 28 attack, Tampaksana, said that frightened by the attack they took shelter at the local MLA’s house, where they reached after running around two kilometers amidst the intense firing.

“I told Premkanta Meitei to go to the spot along with others to rescue my mother-in-law. But when he reached the spot, everything was finished, only the ashes and debris besides the remains of elderly woman, who was charred to death, were seen,” Tampaksana said.

The Serou village was one of the worst-hit areas during the ethnic violence between the valley-based Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribals, mostly living in the hilly areas of Manipur.

A short distance away from the village, the local Serou village market resembles a ghost area now.

All local traders, who lived in the village, have all fled the place and taken shelter in the relief camps leading to an absolute silence prevailing in the area.

The over 80-day long ethnic violence, which broke out after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, has so far claimed over 160 lives, injured over 600 people of different communities and displaced over 70,000 people besides destroying a large number of properties and vehicles.

Local leaders said that there are many more horrific incidents that still remained unknown and came to light as hundreds of villages remained deserted and the displaced frightened people out of fear are reluctant to visit their habitats and villages. (IANS) 

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