APEX Express

APEX Express – 8.3.23 – Manipur’s Humanitarian Crisis

A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.

“We are a small group of people, and if we are annihilated the world won’t even miss us because most of the world doesn’t even know we exist.”
The Kuki-Zomi tribal community of Manipur, a small picturesque state in north-east India, has been witnessing violent ethnic conflict in which over 120 lives have been tragically lost and more than 50,000 individuals displaced from their ancestral homes since May 2023.
Hosts Miko Lee and Cheryl Truong are joined by Niang Hangzo and Sonny Gangte, both members of the impacted Kuki-Zomi and a part of the North American Manipur Tribal Association @namtaus. They unravel the complexities of Manipur’s crisis and the factors perpetuating this atrocious humanitarian violation against the Kuki people.
Please be advised that the things we’re going to be talking about and what has been happening to the Kuki-Zomi people of Manipur is horrific. Tonight’s show handles sensitive topics, such as violence, genocide, gender based violence and sexual assault. Our show’s transcript will be available to read in our show notes for those who would like to process at their own pace.
Stay updated on the Manipur crisis and the incredible work by the North American Manipur Tribal Association by following their socials:
Want to learn more? Check out The Bay Native Circle, a weekly program that presents special guests and explores today’s Native issues, peoples, cultures, music & events with rotating hosts Morning Star Gali, Tony Gonzales, Eddie Madril and Janeen Antoine.

APEX Express: Manipur’s Humanitarian Crisis Show Transcript

Cheryl Truong: Before we begin here is a content warning. Please be advised that the things we’re going to be talking about, and what is happening to the Kuki-Zomi people of Manipur is… Horrific. Tonight’s show handles sensitive topics, such as violence, genocide, gender based violence and sexual assault.

Our show’s transcript will be available to read in our show notes for those who would like to process at their own pace. Please do whatever you must to take care of yourself.

Miko Lee: Good evening, you’re on APEX Express. This is Miko Lee and Cheryl Truong, and tonight is an AACRE night. AACRE is Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality, and APEX Express is proud to be part of the AACRE network.

Cheryl Truong: For tonight’s show, we’re going to be unpacking some of the violence that has been taking place in the Indian state of Manipur. Protests have erupted all over America, including the series of actions that took place Sunday of last week in the bay area led by NAMTA, the North American Manipur Tribal Association, and one of our AACRE groups, ASATA, Alliance of South Asians Taking Action.

The Sunday actions were in support of the Kuki-Zomi tribal community of Manipur who have been facing ongoing violence by the ethnic majority, the Meiteis.

The Kuki-Zomis, a predominantly Christian indigenous community.., are facing genocide as their villages, churches and communities are being razed by the Meitei community, a largely Hindu ethnic group who account for about 50% of the state’s population.

This assault of the Kuki people has been ongoing since May, but is only recently getting traction for reasons we’ll get into later.

Here to speak out about what’s been going on are two members of the impacted Kuki tribe and members of NAMTA, Niang Hongzo and Sonny Gangte. Thank you both so much for being here.

To start do you mind telling our listeners who are at the Kuki-Zomis and what is going on in Manipur?

Niang Hangzo: Thank you for having me here. I’m Niang Hangzo and I am a Kuki-Zomi woman. When I talk to people, I ask them, Where do you think I’m from?” and almost nine times out of ten, they’ll say I’m outside of India, maybe Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, but they never think I’m Indian.

Kuki-Zomi people are indigenous to Manipur, to the hills of Manipur, and we are 16% of the population, and we are Christians. But because Manipur is a small state about 8,621 square miles, and it has two distinct geography, the valley, there’s a hill and valley and the valley is also where the capital is.

And it is very developed– all the infrastructure, the high seats of learning, any advanced facilities, education center, et cetera– is concentrated hundred percent in the valley. And the valley is where the Meitei live. There are three distinct ethnicities in Manipur: the Meiteis, who are the majority and primarily Hindu, and then there are Nagas, and the Kuki-Zomis.

The Naga and Kuki-Zomis primarily live in the hills. We are hill tribes, indigenous to the hills. But because of jobs, et cetera, a lot of us live in Imphal. My family lived in Imphal for 60 years because my parents worked for the government of Manipur. And what’s interesting about me is that my mother is a Meitei and my father is one of the subtribe of the Kuki-Zomis.

So when we say Kuki-Zomi, it is a conglomerate of subtribes. So it’s not one tribe, it’s multiple small tribes, 16% of the population. The total population of the state is about 3 million from the last 2011 official census, we are barely above half a million.

So we talking about a very small section of people. People that the world does not even know exists most of the time, like I started with how people mistake us for somebody outside of India. We are very small in number– that’s over half a million– about seven to eight tribes all together.

Cheryl Truong: That’s so interesting, Niang, that you mentioned that your mother is Meitei, and your father is Kuki-Zomi. I know you wrote an essay for the American Kahani, a very detailed report on your family, what they were going through when all the violence erupted in Manipur on May 3rd.

Do you mind sharing a little bit about what your family experienced?

Niang Hangzo: Yes. Like I mentioned, my family has lived in Imphal in a locality called PaiteVeng which literally means where Paites live. I mentioned that I belong to a tribe, Paite, which is one of the Kuki-Zomi tribes. My father actually founded that colony with two other Paite men in the 60s.

And they’ve been embroiled in the social fabric of Imphal, and we have Meitei relatives, we speak Meitei, we speak our Paite language, and we speak English. We, you know, we’ve lived there, and our neighbors know us. My mother was a nurse. I think 90% of births in Manipur were delivered at home.

And as a nurse, she delivered the babies around the Meitei localities that surround PaiteVeng– everyone knows our family, you know, it’s the first house next to the main highway. And on May 3rd, around eight o’clock, there was a sudden rush of people coming to the locality, and then there was a huge noise.

In Manipur, among the Metis, when they have trouble or they want people to come out of their houses, they take rods and they hit the electric pole. And that is a cry to the community to come out; that there’s trouble or something important is happening.

So that happened. My family knew there had been trouble the Kuki-Zomi area in Churachandpur earlier in the day. They expected some sort of civil unrest, maybe burning of tires, pelting of stones. They just locked the gate. My family lived in a compound with four houses in there with my brothers, they had their own homes. Each family, cowered in, in one room and waited for trouble to die down. They thought it’ll die out, but it didn’t. They could hear the crowd, the roar of people. And one of my nephew went upstairs and he peeped out and he said, the church is burning.

Our church is burning. And that’s when they knew this is no ordinary agitation. In Manipur with all the distinct ethnicities, we’ve had troubles with each other among ourselves. But, we’ve never had a church burn or any places of worship attack. So this was different. Absolutely different.

We’ve never had our churches burned or attacked. So they knew something was wrong. My sister called my brother and he said he was already sheltering in the neighbor’s house in the neighboring compound. So the neighboring compound there were multiple houses belonging to another family, and they had a big house that was now rented by a Meitei man, and he ran it as a hotel.

My brother said, “Come over.” My sister; my mom was 86 years old– they left. My mom was completely shocked and she couldn’t wear her shoes they struggled and got out in the nick of time. They took shelter in the hotel for a bit with the rest of my family.

They’re like, I think, 20 of them, because I come from a large family. And there were other people in the hotels our neighborhood. The owner was a Meitei man and he was very kind. He allowed them to come in, but he said the mob had grown. They had started burning our neighbor’s house and our house.

So he said, they’re going to come here next. There’s no way I can protect you. He talked to the cops and he negotiated safe passage for us. So of all the people in our neighborhood, our family was the only one that came face to face with the mob. Because of this man, this kind man who negotiated safe passage, we were escorted out by the cops and the mob parted and they let us through.

The young men in the mob said, “This is ” Ibok*– means grandma. We know her. Do not touch our family. And that’s why our family was saved. I mean, because there were many instances on the fort, for example, where they actually killed Kuki-Zomi people. We are very lucky and the story is very long, but eventually they ended up in army camps.

The interesting thing is that my family had my mom, 86 years old, and she had a great grandchild who was just one year old, as well as her grandson who was almost two years old, and another one that was four years old. And my youngest sister has down syndrome so we have all kinds of ages.

And it’s very difficult to keep the kids, the babies quiet and so on. So they had a really tough time, but I have another sister in California. We managed to get them out to Delhi and they’re safe. So thank God we are very lucky. We lost everything we own. They burned our houses, our cars, and whatever they didn’t burn, they looted.

But we still think we are the luckiest family because they were together. My nephew’s daughter, she’s 11 years old. When they were being herded to safety and finally at the camp, they never felt secure. She told her grandmother, ‘At least we are together. At least we’ll die together” This is from 11 year old.

Cheryl Truong: Thank you Niang for sharing that. That must have been really difficult to write. Niang’s essay will be linked in our show notes. A lot of the headlines I’ve been seeing reporting on what’s been going on in Manipur has been framing the violence as an ethnic violence. But Niang mentions that her family was surprised at how a lot of her community churches were being burned down. Of course the Meitei violence against the Kuki-Zomis is an ethnic dispute against tribal communities, but there seems to be another dimension to it. Sonny. Do you think you can talk a little bit about that?

Sonny Gangte: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Cheryl. I am also a member of the Kuki-Zomi community. As Niang mentioned, we are a persecuted minority in Manipur. The state is divided into three predominant groups.

Majority Meitei group, which comprises more than 50%. And then the Nagas who are also a tribal group, but they are not involved in this ethnic cleansing. And then there’s the Kuki-Zomi community, who is predominantly being targeted. We are 16% of the Manipur state’s population.

And the state government has been pre- planning violence against the Kuki-Zomi community and we know this because there have been many instances of the government trying to take over tribal lands by legislative means, you know, they would conduct a bogus survey and declare that this land is a protected forest, and then the tribal indigenous people who have been living there for hundreds of thousands of years, would then be evicted.

The Meitei the state government is hand in glove with the Meitei community and the majority Métis radical groups. There are a couple of radical groups, one of them called Arambai Tenggol which is basically a sort of the militant wing of their community.

And then there is Meitei Leepun which on paper seems to espouse unity and cultural heritage of the Meiteis but in reality, they are the ones radicalizing the entire Meitei community and trying to malign the Kuki-Zomi community. And as you said, they have been trying to change the narrative, right?

The state government under Biren Singh, when he came to power, he’s the chief minister much like the governor of the state. When he came into power he has been trying to spread this propaganda of the Kuki-Zomi people being illegal immigrants from neighboring Myanmar which is absolutely not the case. There are small number of refugees who have been given shelter in Manipur by certain communities, but by no means are the Kuki people illegal immigrants. They are indigenous to the area and they have been there for so long.

Niang Hangzo: If I could just jump in there. Sonny mentioned that there’s been land grab attempts and the Meitei can do that because in Manipur. They have 40 seats out of 60 in the state legislature. And this gives them majority to pass any bills. And in 2015 they passed a bill, their first attempt, and there was a huge protest from the tribals so that went nowhere. Then Biren Singh came to power in 2017. He is very different from the previous chief minister. He is the architect of the ethnic cleansing and the genocide that’s going on in Manipur. He’s the one who started using xenophobic tropes to turn the Kuki-Zomi into the other.

We’ve been living side by side. We are neighbors with them. So to turn the neighbors against us, they started this propaganda. And the older people know, most sensible people know, but a lot of the people just grabbed onto this and they just ran with it.

But these are nothing but xenophobic tropes. There were many serious attempts to land grab. In 2022, for example, they expanded the Indian Forest Act 1927, and just like Sonny mentioned, they’ll just went and turned our villages and claimed that these villages are now protected forests. These villages are wildlife sanctuaries. These villages are reserve forests. And so this is another way to grab lands and they evicted our villages, like there was in, I think, February of 2023, they went and just bulldozed a village. I think this is something that’s not just in Manipur, they’ve used things like environment protection, climate change, protecting the environment, preserving forests, as dog whistles, just to grab tribal land.

That’s one thing. And the other thing that they did was they’d say, Oh, that hill. That is a seed of our God. Oh, that place. And these are all tribal lands. Oh, that place over there, like in Behiang, Chivu, they said, Oh, that one, you know what, our king, his footprints are found there. I don’t know what that means, but somehow they use that to grab our land, and they never consulted the tribal people, our leaders. They’ve been doing this land grab progressively over the years, and suddenly from 2022, they’ve just been doing this coming on full force.

Miko Lee: Niang, what was the change making factor in 2022 that, that ramped up this whole situation? You said that the land grab has been going on for a long time and the oppression of the tribal folks has been going on, but was there some kind of catalyst that changed things in 2022?

Niang Hangzo: I wish we knew. If we had known that I think we would not have been taken by surprise, but we know that since 2022 that’s when the whole population, or even the TV, their media started using the tropes that I mentioned to make us be the other.

So something escalated. Only they would know what the plan is, but they started doing things like that and maybe Sonny might know more, but we don’t know what was the tipping point or what caused it, but it escalated and everyone noticed.

Sonny Gangte: It’s been simmering. The trouble has been simmering for many years, and it coincides with this current chief minister, Biren Singh, coming to power, and over the last several years, that has been the case. But even before this, the Kuki-Zomi people have been marginalized for years, because we never had the seats in government. They always had 40 seats. And the 10 seats might go to the Nagas and 10 seats to the Kukis. So right now the community has only 10 seats and we can never enact legislation that favors us.

For many, many years growing up in, in Manipur it’s always Meitei centric– Meitei being the majority community, right? And that’s the sort of image that the people of Manipur have cultivated. The term ‘Manipuri’ sort of exclusively refers to the Meitei people, not us, even though we are from Manipur.

Some of the examples, the hospitals, the airport, the colleges, they’re all Imphal. And then Churachandpur is the second largest town, and that is a stronghold of the Kuki-Zomi community. Churachand was the name of the Meitei king and the people of this town have now renounced it and they prefer to call it Lanka.

And so that’s where we’re from, Lanka.

Niang Hangzo: I think this is very important that people know that Meitei fought with the British in 1891 and they appointed this puppet king, who was Churachand, a little boy.

Before that the place that they called Churachandpur was always ours. The Meitei kings never, ever ruled over the hills. The hills are ruled by tribes. And we don’t have kings, we have chiefs, similarly for the Nagas. But our ancestors would interact with them.

They would sometimes even go down to the valley and raid. So we were always fighting with them and we would have an uneasy alliance. The British administered us, but the king of Meitei ruled in that 700 square miles, which is the valley. Historically, we had never been under a Meitei administration until we became a state.

The Churachandpur name is only as old as I think it was 1917 or 19 something, after the Kukigal. But, before that, it was Lamka. And the British were still there. I think they were doing something, maybe it was after the First World War or something like that, because a lot of Kuki-Zomi signed up to commemorate that the name of the place was changed to Churachandpur.

But before that, it was always the indigenous Lamka. That’s how we call it. And we’ve always called it Lamka.

Miko Lee: So part of the actions that have been going on, part of it I’m hearing from you both is a land grab, and the other part , is around religious persecution.

Is that right? Can you expand more on that? What is the impetus for this recent surge in violence?

Sonny Gangte: Right. The Meiteis follow the majority Hindu religion, and then the Kuki-Zomi are predominantly Christian. It is primarily a ethnic and land grab issue, but then there are religious undertones.

There is a religious implication as well. They have destroyed hundreds of churches, places of worship, in Imphal. Imphal used to house a lot of Kuki-Zomi people living together with the Meitei in the city of Imphal, the state capital. But now there is not a single member of the Kuki-Zomi community living there anymore, because if they do go there, they will be killed. It’s as simple as that. We cannot go back there. There were hundreds of churches in Imphal and they were all burned. Niang can elaborate more on this angle, but one of the things that I can say is that Arambai Tenggol and the Meitei Leepun they don’t want the religious conversion of some Meiteis as well. Some Meiteis convert to Christianity and they don’t want that to happen either. So that’s another angle to that.

Niang Hangzo: Yeah. When I started this, I said that the first thing they did when they came to my colony was they went and burnt the church.

And I said that was unprecedented because they’ve never, we’ve never, we’ve lived together, but nobody has burned or destroyed or vandalized or desecrated places of worship. So this is what tells me that there are outside actors that are looking at what divisions we have and that’s banking on it.

So the religious element is absolutely new. And just to quote some figures, because I like figures, the Hindu population is 41.39%. And the Christian population in the projected census is 41. 29%.

The official census is 2011. India hasn’t had any census since then. It’s been postponed. So the last official census, I think it was like 37 point something for Christians and, a little higher, maybe over 43 or 45 for the Hindus. So you see, there’s been a demographic shift in religion. That means in between many Meitei have become Christians.

So now we are almost neck to neck, right? There are over 357 churches burnt altogether. Out of that, 170 belong to Meitei. That took me back. I was shocked that there were so many Meitei Christian churches. So one of the things that made everything different was first, we have this shift in demographics, in religious demographic, right? They’re 53 percent of the population, but their Hindus is 41. 39 percent and Christians 41. 29 percent.

Two organization, Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun, openly said in one of the interviews that we don’t like our people becoming Christians. So that’s one reason. And I have to say that this religious angle I really feel is from outside. The push to cause this division between the two religion because it’s unprecedented.

And also, we know that the ruling party, the center, for example, they’re strong Hindu nationalist. So there is that. The lust for land that the Meiteis have for tribal land, uh, I think they took that and used it to divide and also added this religious divide; in this ethnic cleansing.

Like Sonny said, we’ve been ethnically cleansed from the valley and the same thing for the Meiteis. We retaliated too. When they started burning, we also burnt the houses in our area. So there are also no Meiteis in the Kuki-Zomi area.

The ethnic cleansing is over. What is happening today the genocide of the Kuki-Zomi. We stay in our areas, but they keep coming to the peripheral villages, the area that borders Meiteis and Kuki-Zomis. Those villages are now empty of women and children. And our men, our young men have put their lives on hold, their education on hold, and they have taken up the defense of the villages, of our land, and our people. There’s nothing going on in terms of education, even for young children, because there are over 104 relief camps in the Lamka Churachandpur area. The schools are being used as camps. And the same thing is going on in the Kuki-Zomi area in Kangpokpi.

They attack us with the state forces and the two organizations, the militants so young men are fighting to save us. To protect us. Our children are not getting education. Our students, the young people who are studying in medical colleges at Inphal, or there’s one medical college in Lamka, even those schools those universities and colleges are closed.

Meanwhile, in the valley, everything is going on a full swing. The students are back, they’re taking exams, etc. The government has not made any provision for the Kuki-Zomi students. If this continues, they will lose an entire year of studies.

Sonny Gangte: And to add to that there were a handful of Meitei students studying in the one medical university in Lamka.

And they are Meiteis, so they left the town of Lamka as well, right? But the government of Manipur immediately swung into action. And made provisions for these Meitei students to be able to continue their studies in a different university outside the state or within the state. This is clear evidence that the government is simply favoring one group over the other.

Niang Hangzo: Yes. So they made sure that their students continue their studies. But our students; our smart young people, are sitting in limbo. They have nothing.

Miko Lee: Thank you so much to both of you for sharing this. This is, it’s really hard to hear. We, as you know, are dealing with the rise of fascism and the othering of peoples in the United States and all across the world.

I’m, I’m seeing it in the press a little bit, like every once in a while, but it’s really hidden and kind of hard to find. And I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how people are communicating with each other . How are you hearing stories about What’s really going down as opposed to just the news, the little bits I’m picking up from the guardian or this place or from a newsletter from somebody.

Sonny Gangte: Yes. The mainstream media in India refuses to cover this story. And that’s one of the reasons why global media does not automatically pick it up. How do we get our information? There are a number of online media outlets in India, and a bunch of YouTube channels who are vocal about this issue. There are very few honest journalists left in India, because as you well know, India is trending towards fascism as well. Freedom of speech is being suppressed and journalists are being targeted in India. it’s a tough situation out there for everyone.

To touch upon how this issue became an international or a national issue. On May 4th, two Kuki Zomi women were paraded naked, and subsequently gang r*ped by a large mob of Meitei people. The video incident happened on May 4th, but issue came out because the video got leaked to the Internet. There was an Internet ban in Manipur at that time, and then 77 days later the video surfaced online, and it shook India. It went viral in India and it shook the psyche of the people of India. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, had up until now, refused to speak on this issue. People were dying. 120 plus people had died at that time and 50, 000 people displaced.

And the Prime Minister of the largest, oldest democracy in the world, well, Modi likes to say, India is the mother of democracy. He came to the U. S. floor of Congress, and proclaimed that India is the mother of democracy, and here, while that was happening, while he was speaking, all of this was happening back home. He is the democratically elected leader, and he refuses to acknowledge the problem up until the video of these two women being paraded naked came online. And at that time the prime minister was under pressure, so he spoke briefly, he spoke for 36 seconds, and he said, Violence against women is bad, and he condemned that issue as an isolated incident, and that was it. He went back. He didn’t address the killings, ethnic violence, and most importantly, he did not call for peace.

Niang Hangzo: And I think that was one of the saddest thing for both for the Kuki-Zomi and the Meiteis because a lot of people are suffering. Enough is enough. We want this to end. So for the prime minister of the country to treat that as an isolated incident not related to the ethnic cleansing that’s going on and the genocide that’s in progress.

That is absolutely shocking and extremely disappointing. Manipur as I mentioned, is a small state, we are barely 3 million people or maybe 3.5 if we look at projected population, India has a strong army. 60,000 strong. They’re there, but they’re not enabled to douse this fire. So the fire that was set, literally and figuratively from May 3rd is still burning 91 days later. And because of the moratorium on news, the viral video of the gang r*pe of those two Kukis, of our sisters, had not come out, we would not be talking about here because nobody paid attention.

We shouldn’t have to see something like that to act. It is a humanitarian crisis. And for a people that is so small in number they can easily wipe us out and the world would not know because most people don’t know we exist. And so it’s very important for us to tell the world that we exist.

It doesn’t matter if we’re one, two, 500k or a million. We exist and we matter. And they’re doing all this just to get tribal lands because our lands are rich in mineral. And when I think of that, I know that there are powers outside of the state involved, because there’s nobody in Manipur who can mine or do anything. You need industry, you need infrastructure, you need lots of money. If you follow the money, it’ll trace you to something outside. And I believe that at the end, let’s say if the Meiteis managed to annihilate us, which we don’t think will happen. But if they did, I can tell you for sure that they’ll never get benefits or they’ll never get equity from whatever industry will come out of our land.

And for tribals, our land, we have a strong affinity for our land. We are mostly laid back most of the time, but if you come for our land, it doesn’t matter. Even if there’s one last man standing or one last woman standing. We will fight. Our people back home will fight to death. We will not give an inch.

Cheryl Truong: Thank you so much, Niang, for all of your courage and insight. For those just tuning in, we are here with Niang Hangzo and Sunny Gangte from the North American Manipur Tribal Association, NAMTA, and we’re peeling through the many layers of the Meitei violence against the Kuki in Manipur. There are land grabs, profit motives, ethno religious tensions, in action by the Manipur state government that all perpetuate this atrocious humanitarian violation against the Kuki people.

We’ll be right back with more on what’s going down in Manipur after this music break. We’re going to be listening to a track by the Khamsa Project. Khamsa, the Arabic word for five, is a multimedia art project, showcasing black, Muslim, immigrant, and refugee visual artists and musicians traversing the five stages of grief. They’ve launched art exhibits, music performances, dance shows, community events, podcasts, but this track in particular, Is from their self-titled hip hop album. Khamsa: the album. This is “something” by one of their collaborative artists Spote Breeze.

Welcome back. You are tuned in to apex express on 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 K PFB in Berkeley and [email protected]. That was something called “Something” by Spote Breeze from the Khamsa Project. We are back with Niang Hangzo and Sonny Gangte, members of the Kuki tribe and NAMTA, learning more about the genocide waged against the Kuki people and what we can do to help.

Once again, that was “Something” by Spote Breeze from the Khamsa Project..

Sonny Gangte: There have been many instances of police brutality in Manipur, because obviously the police are in cahoots with the state government. There was a youth called Hanglalmuan Vaiphei 21 year old college student in Churachandpur.

He shared a Facebook post criticizing the chief minister. They’re insane. The post he did wasn’t an original post. He reshared it, and it basically was accusing the chief minister of being hand in glove with the poppy planters or drug dealers. Two days later, the police came knocking at his door and they arrested him and then transported him to Imphal to be booked and processed. The official story is that a mob came and snatched the police convoy and waylaid the police convoy and this young man was lynched to death. So he died. And that is the official story of the police.

I don’t know.

Niang Hangzo: Yeah, he died because of he forwarded a Facebook post. He died because he forwarded a Facebook post

Sonny Gangte: And the police were so quick to act within two days. They acted on this one, but it took them so many days, months to act on so many other police reports, especially of those two women who were paraded naked.

Niang Hangzo: So I want to make a correction there. It’s been almost three months. They’ve not acted on anything. The only thing they acted on was the two women who were paraded naked, but they’ve not acted on any other. And they acted on that because the prime minister spoke on it, his outrage, but them? Lots of FIR.

There’s a young, uh, I mentioned immolation. This is a horrifying story. I don’t even want to tell it. He’s 70 years old. He was caught, he was in a camp with his family and there was, cross firing between the two groups and they were in the middle in the army camp. He got ricochet or something shot went and hit his head. He was taken in the ambulance with his mother who was Meitei– he was Kuki. The mother had married a Kuki man so they decided to send him to Imphal because that’s a closest and the best facility advanced facility hospital. He was in an ambulance with his mother, and another Meitei woman who was in the Kuki neighborhood. They said they may be married to a Kuki but it should be safe.

And so they went. They were on the way to the hospital and they got waylaid by a mob of this Meira Paibis, those so called women vigilante, and they were burnt alive.

There are many stories, real horror stories in this war that we don’t want to talk about it, but it’s all there. The way they’ve treated the Kuki-Zomi, the propaganda has succeeded. They don’t see us human beings. And even when I talk about it, this is just one of the things, but a seven year old boy? Where’s the humanity?

If there were militants that did it, I could at least grasp that, as horrifying as it is. But to know that it’s done by the Meitei women, mothers, sisters, wives. Who prosper, possibly have grandchildren like at that age, or even children. That is the horror of this war the world doesn’t grasp.

And then, to make it worse, their young people started putting on Facebook, and their Twitter, and so on that the seven year old boy was harassing them. That he was burning houses. There are horrible stories like this, there’s beheading, there’s a 77 year old lady praying in a church, Kuki-Zomi praying in a church. She was shot, and then they said she was a sniper.

The two women who were paraded and gang r*ped, they said yes, because they were snipers. So not only did they kill or, or debase and dehumanize people. They try to destroy the character as well and brand them as snipers or something. I mean, and they’re so outrageous. A seven year old boy harassing them?

A seven year old minority boy harassing them? Let’s not forget, this war waged by the 53% against the 16%. The 53% have enjoyed 98% of the budget of the state for over 70 years. They have everything today. If somebody has to fly out to Delhi, they cannot go and access the airport. If somebody has a heart attack, they cannot go to Imphal. They will just die there, or they have to go by road. If there’s anything critical medically, they have to be airlifted. The biggest need now is medical, medicine, any sort of medical help, more doctors. Remember to access our areas, they have to come through Mizoram or through Nagaland.

They cannot fly in into Imphal. If they’re coming by road, to our area, maybe they’ll be stopped because this vigilante women have stopped everybody including armies. We used to revere them because they were the ones who fought for the women of Manipur originally but they’ve turned completely.

They’ve turned completely and they are now the aggressors. They’re hunting. There are videos of women hunting. When my family escaped, I told you they came face to face with the mob. And my 11 year old grand niece said that the women were worse. The men said, protect this family. We know this woman. She’s Meitei, she’s a grandmother. We know her. They call her Ibo. The women said, why should we let them go? They raped and kill our people. But. Nobody was raped or killed in Churachandpur on May 3rd. There was disinformation spread to rile up all the people in Imphal, so they would chase us out of our house, they would kill us, and even the gang r*pe. They clearly said that it’s in retaliation of a fake story. The harm that misinformation has caused. The price we had to pay for misinformation is unimaginable.

We are a small group of people, and if we are annihilated, the world won’t even miss us because most of the world don’t know we exist. So please. Spread the word.

Miko Lee: Thank you so much for both sharing on that. I’m sitting with your words, Niang, and kind of taking them in, absorbing them. And Sonny, I’m thinking about how important video was, because they did capture that horrific gang r*pe on camera. And same thing that happens here with African American people that have been killed by the police.

It’s when we catch the video of it that it tends to have that impact. The more people have exposure to it. I’m sitting with the fact that video then made it on the internet, and then I read about it in Al Jazeera, July 20th. This is like the time between May and July 20th that it took for it to even hit any kind of national news partially is because one there was a video there that people are seeing it, but also the story is still hidden, even with that .The story of the deeper roots of what’s going on and this whole attempt at annihilating a people’s for profit is kind of going under the radar.

How can people in our audience that are listening, get involved in your work so that we can help to build the world that we want to see as opposed to the world we’re living in?

Sonny Gangte: So, NAMTA, the North American Manipur Tribals Association, is an organization as old as this crisis itself. It was formed as a response to this persecution of our people. And even today, the crisis is ongoing. And the government, any aid going to Manipur right now is not reaching the Kuki-Zomi people.

It might reach Imphal. I don’t know. The people in Kangpokpi and Lamka are in dire need of humanitarian aid. There are hospitals there, small hospitals. Primary health care centers, and they don’t have enough supplies, and we have received a pleas from their people asking for IV fluids and gloves and bare minimum medical necessities, and it’s going to turn into a larger public health crisis.

It already is. One of the things that we can use is to spread the word. First of all, we need the world to know that horrific atrocities are being committed in the so called largest democracy. We also welcome any Donations if anyone would like to support our cause when you try and send humanitarian aid.

Niang Hangzo: Yeah, yeah. The thing is, because of the inaction and silence of the central government, we can say that they are complicit, right? Silence is complicit because they could have stopped this. They allowed this to happen. So when we ask about aid, for example, if the U. S. aid has to go, it has to go through the center government and they will refuse it. If you remember, Eric Garcetti said, if you ask us, we will help. He said that, the US ambassador. He was told that this is an internal matter, but really, but it is not. We’re not looking at the political part of it.

If you look at the human side of it, it is a humanitarian matter.. Our people are not getting anything from the central government because for the central government will send it to the state government. This is state sponsored pogrom..

So they’re not going to send anything to our people. So even asking for international aid. They need permission of the central government, so they’ll not receive it. But we still want people to talk because one of the things we want to do now and what I want the listeners to do is to talk about this, to read about this, go to our site, listen to the personal stories, not political. We have our personal stories there, read about it and talk about it, tweet, put it out in social media.

If everyone talks about Manipur and the Genocide of the Kuki-Zomi. We want it so loud, so loud in the digital media that Delhi can hear it. Because I think public opinion can sway government. I think that is very important. I want engagement from listeners to start tweeting about this, to start reading about it and share it on their social media so it gets amplified.

That’s one ask. The second ask is that I want you all to write to your senators, to write to your representatives. The European Union brought this Manipur issue and the persecution of Christians on 12th July, and on the next day they passed a resolution condemning the failures of the Modi government.

This is the EU, they’ve done it. And Fiona Bruce, who is a Special Envoy of Religious Freedom for the UK Prime Minister, she brought it in Parliament. U. S. is a bastion of freedom, the land of the free. everybody looks up to the United States. As someone who would protect human rights, not U.N. But United States is synonymous with being the big brother, the father that take care of the weak. And yet nobody has spoken.

So we want our congressman to bring this to motion. I know there are on a break right now, but we this is a time to hit them with it. We want the U. S. representatives to bring the Manipur issue on the floor and discuss it and maybe censor the government. And of course, our president went as far as saying that we need to sanction.

And I know that that will be hard because when Modi came, they signed billion dollars worth of business and there’s economic reasons, but that would be also one of the aspirational goals, but let’s start with raising awareness. Spreading the news to everybody, to your friends, talk to people about it.

Like I said, let it ring so loud that Delhi can hear it. Number one, number two, I’m repeating, because it’s important, write to your congressmen, write to your senators about this, and tell them to bring this issue up.

Please look at NAMTA’s Facebook page. We also have a YouTube channel. We also have Instagram, and we will announce those and please join us.

Miko Lee: . . We will add links to those in the show notes of APEX Express so people can have access and find out more about the amazing work. Thank you.

You are a few but mighty that are living here carrying the banner for a lot of people in Manipur and all around the world. And just know that there’s so many of us that are here supporting you and believing in you and supporting the fight for dignity and power for your people. thank you so much for all the work that you’re doing. We’re going to encourage everybody to check out the NAMTA website. to find out more about what’s happening in Manipur and how you all in our community, all of our listeners can make a difference, can make your voices be heard so that these atrocities will not continue to happen.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Cheryl Truong: And that’s the end of our show.

Please check our website, kpfa.org to find out more about what’s going on in Manipur, the work that NAMTA has been doing, and the work that ASATA is doing.

We’d like to thank all of our listeners out there. Keep dreaming folks. A better world is possible.

Apex express is produced by Miko Lee, Paige Chung, Jalena Keane-Lee, Preeti Mangala Shekar. Shekar, Anuj Vaidya, Kiki Rivera, Swati Rayasam, Nate Tan, Hien Nguyen, Nikki Chan, and Cheryl Truong

Tonight’s show was produced by Miko Lee and me, cheryl. Thanks to the team at KPFA for all of their support. And thank you for listening!


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