Siejang and Silent Khul: two different stories, one regrettable incident

IMPHAL, May 9: An unusual amount of security presence is visible on the road that passes by Seijang village following the arson on Silent Khul. Gun toting IRB commandos and uniformed police personnel patrol the stretch that has gained recent notoriety for the burning of 36 huts at Silent Khul, perched on top of a startlingly verdant rain drenched hill, a stones throw away. But village elders gathered at the home of retired Assam Regiment rifleman H Ningtham Singh to appraise the ever increasing tension between the residents of Seijang village and their neighbours in Silent village say that the matter has been blown way out of proportion.

``On the day that the incident took place, it was simply a matter of things getting out of hand. We had just received an order from the District Judge of Manipur West saying that the disputed land between the two villages – the Uyoh or forest land was not to be touched by the villagers of Silent Khul. They were not to carry out any construction or any excavation,’’says H Ningtham Singh.

What started out, therefore, as simply a survey of the land claim by the villagers,  quickly turned into the most violent incident that this area has ever seen. Says village elder L RojendroSingh,``There were around 300 of us who had gone to survey this disputed land to see what the situation was. When we went ,we found that there was construction that the residents of Silent village had carried out at the disputed area. In some stretches trees had been felled, land had been leveled and crops had been sown. The youth in our village were incensed to see this and they went on a rampage. All the leaders and elders of the village tried to stop them but they had no control whatsoever and this untoward incident happened, which was unfortunate’’

Rojendro Singh says that there was never any preplanned violence and no mal-intent against the villagers of Silent Khul. ``But now there are NGOs and various groups who are visiting the area every day. We fear that what started out as a land dispute will now be turned into a communal issue, and that people will use the incident as propaganda for their own ends,’’adds Singh.

Silent Khul on its part has been witness to meetings and community prayer events every day since the incident took place. Pastors and support groups from Ukhrul, villages in Senapati and some even from Dimapur have visited this otherwise little known hamlet every single day. Apart from their moral support, they bring with them supplies of rice, utensils, blankets, clothes, shoes, tin sheets, potatoes which are stocked in homes that are left standing.

Silent Khul village headman 82 year old Hongprang Raikhan on his part contends that the attack on the village by the residents of Saijeng was premeditated. ``A mob of 300 men came first, then another wave and then another – there were at least 700 of them if not more. We were outnumbered and ran for our lives,’’he says. Raikhan alleges that this isn’t the first time that they have been `harassed’ by the residents of the Saijang, although this was without a doubt the worst incident. ``They steal our cattle sometimes and fell our trees. They say that they have an order from the Manipuri Darbar that they have rights over this land. But we bought this land way back in 1965 and settled down here. They did not oppose our settling here then,’’he adds. When asked why he thinks they were attacked Raikhan says,``We have absolutely no idea.’’

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Courtesy:ISTV Imphal


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