Ethnic violence in Manipur: freedom fighter's wife burnt alive in Serou villagetext_fields
Imphal: In a case filed with the Serou police station in Manipur, it was reported that an armed group locked an 80-year-old woman inside her house and set it on fire. The victim, Ibetombi, was the wife of S Churachand Singh, a freedom fighter who had been honoured by former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
The village was among the hardest hit during the clashes between the valley-majority Meiteis and the hill-majority Kuki tribe. The clashes were triggered by the Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status.
The incident occurred on May 28 during the period of massive violence and gunfire in places like Serou.
Ibetombi's grandson, Premkanta, narrated the harrowing incident to NDTV.
According to him, the armed group locked Ibetombi inside her house and set it on fire. By the time her family rushed to save her, the entire structure was engulfed in flames. Premkanta narrowly escaped death as bullets grazed his arm and thigh during the rescue attempt. He showed NDTV the scars on his body from the near-fatal encounter.
Ibetombi's last words to her family were to leave first and return for her later. However, the intense firing and danger for slow-movers prevented any immediate rescue.
Two months after the ethnic clashes, Premkanta has returned to find the remains of his home. Among the debris, he has found a photograph of Ibetombi's late husband, the freedom fighter, with former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Prior to the violence, Serou was a picturesque village situated about 45 km from the state capital, Imphal. Today, it lies in ruins, with burnt houses and bullet holes marking the scars of the recent clashes.
Serou market, once bustling with life, now looks like a ghost town as people have fled the area. Security forces remain on high alert to prevent further confrontations between the two communities, and movement is restricted for the safety of villagers. Signs urging outsiders to stay away after 6 pm are scattered across the area.
The pain and trauma of the incidents are making the thought of returning home a daunting challenge for a lot of people. Most are apprehensive about the idea of going back.
The situation in Manipur remains tense, with the state being without internet for over two months.