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'Look for the Kukis': An Evening of Horror and Violence at Manipur University

The attackers "had a list of Kuki students and their room numbers," a student claimed.

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"They knew specifically where the girls' hostel was and without getting off track, they could pinpoint the exact place to go and vandalise," a female research scholar studying at Manipur University in Imphal told The Quint.

Describing her night of horror, she alleged that Kuki students were "hand-picked" to be attacked. "We are completely numb. Tears are still flowing," she added.

Manipur has been in a state of flux with violence escalating between the non-tribal group Meiteis and the tribal groups Kukis and Nagas. In-depth articles that explain the roots of the tensions can be found here and here.

The state government on Tuesday, 2 May, had imposed a curfew in most of the districts and suspended mobile internet services in the entire state for five days starting Wednesday, 3 May. A mass rally organised by the All Tribal Students' Union Manipur (ATSUM) turned violent in an area bordering the Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts of the state.

The tribal groups oppose the demand of the Meiteis to be included in the Scheduled Tribe category, as the latter are in the majority, both in population and in political representation. The tribals also argue that Meities already have OBC and SC status.

While the epicentre of the violence is Churachandpur, Manipur University, a central university located in the state capital, also witnessed horrifying scenes on Wednesday night.

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'Lost All My Books, Nothing Is Left'

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm lucky," said a professor at Manipur University who wished to remain anonymous.

"We knew things were bad in Churachandpur. But we didn't expect anything to happen in the campus, inside the Manipur University campus.  But we heard that people are entering the campus. This was on 3 May, around 7 in the evening," they alleged.

The professor, who belongs to the Kuki community, narrated that at around 7 pm, "people in the form of mobs entered the campus."

"Initially, I didn't go to the Assam Rifles camp within the campus because I thought as faculty, I'd be safe. But because some students had already reached the camp, I thought I should go and take a look. Even the registrar told me that all security measures had been taken."

Believing that his residence would remain secure and that he would come back in a bit, the professor left for the Assam Rifles camp with just their phone and wallet.

"Just a few minutes after I left, I heard that they attacked the joint registrars' residence. That is the same building in which I stay," the professor claimed.

Lamenting on everything that was destroyed, they went on to say that they had asked their friend to go check up on their residence. "Everything from my computer to my laptop, my books, all my belongings, were taken out of my residence and burnt. My scooter and furniture were not spared either. Nothing is left. I had been collecting those books for a very long time. I asked my friend to send me a picture, but there is no internet."

When asked about who constituted the mob, they said they had no clue. The professor has now taken shelter at a Manipur Rifles camp. They managed to get out of the Assam Rifles camp and escape the campus at around 6 in the morning the next day.

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'They Didn't Even Spare the Ladies Hostels'

What is perhaps even more disturbing is how the ladies hostels inside the Manipur University campus were attacked. The female research scholar, also from the Kuki community and wished to remain anonymous, told The Quint that the mob knew specifically where the girls' hostels were.

The attackers "had a list of Kuki students and their room numbers. They had not lost their way. They were shouting, "look for the Kukis, look for the Kukis," she alleged.

"[It happened] roughly between 9 and 9.30 at night. I know the timing clearly because we were in contact with our family members during the violence. Our friends were very concerned as well. So our call logs tell us that it was during this time at night," she further claimed.

The scholar went on to detail how the mob broke into the ladies' hostels with sticks and batons, some wearing masks and caps. The mob allegedly broke the locks and vandalised their rooms.

"It was so scary, so traumatising. They didn't even spare the ladies' hostel. Many Kuki girls went through the same horror. We just kept looking at each other and we knew that we had all experienced the same thing," she said.

The research scholar and her friends from her hostel were rescued around 3.15 on the morning of 4 May. They too first went to an Assam Rifles camp within the campus and then were transported to a Manipur Rifles camp at 6 in the morning.

Another research scholar, albeit male, told The Quint that he had spotted the mob outside the university gate before it stormed the campus. "A few minutes later, I saw a video viral on social media of a man in front of the main gate saying that he was going to enter the campus and look for Kukis," he alleged.

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'The Mob Was Attacking Everybody, Not Just Kukis'

The Quint contacted the president of the Manipur University Students Association to hear their side of the story. The SU had, after all, put out this press release with respect to the violence.

The attackers "had a list of Kuki students and their room numbers," a student claimed.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

"There was a mob, yes. But they were drunk. And yes, they were asking about the Kukis, but they were not harming anyone. We also didn't tell them who are Kukis and who are Meiteis. We, in fact, helped with the evacuation of the students," the MUSU president said.

He also went on to claim that false propaganda is being spread against the Meiteis. "The Kukis are burning our houses down in Churachandpur. Nobody is reporting on that," he argued.

"You can ask the Kuki students. We were protecting them and evacuating them," he added.

It should be noted that all office bearers of the MUSU who have signed the above letter are Meiteis. When The Quint reached out to the same Kuki students interviewed above with respect to the MUSU president's claims, the female research scholar asserted that while they were helped by their Meitei friends, it was "not an initiative taken by the students' union."

"Our Meitei friends helped us because they were feeling scared for us. They protected us, they gave us support. But that was because they were our friends. There was no support from any institution within the campus. None."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  manipur   Manipur violence 

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