Ng Liklaileima Arambam
IMPHAL, Feb 11: Leishok village in Noney district has been virtually living under the shadow of unseen bombs scattered in and around the village. During the past 13 months, four children were killed in bomb blasts while three other children and a woman sustained injuries.
Given these facts, the villages are afraid of moving around the village or go to fields for agricultural works.
The latest bomb blast took place on February 1 when two sisters were killed although their mother escaped with injuries.
A team of the Women Action for Development (WAD) and media persons visited Leishok village as well as the bereaved family on February 9.
While interacting with the visiting team, the villagers expressed strong resentment and condemnation against the repeated incidents of bomb blasts in the surrounding areas of the village.
They also made fervent appeals to the Government to sanitise the village and its surrounding areas of bombs/explosives and let them live with a sense of security.
According to one villager, in 2015 Gorkha Regiment confined the villagers to their respective homes for three days and fired around 200 mortar shells/bombs towards Tousang side, Khoupum side, L Khullen side, Thangal side and Chungdangpur side with the purported objective of driving out cadres of Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) from the surrounding areas. But out of every 10 bombs fired, sounds of only three/four explosion could be heard. Out of the many unexploded explosive shells, two went off and the blasts claimed lives of two girls and two boys, said the villager.
Recounting the heart-rending incident of February 1, the mother of the two girls killed in the blast said that she and her two daughters went to till land on a hill slope of Toushang side at around 8.30 am of the day.
After having tea at the hill slope, the elder sister (Akhuina) started clearing bushes using a hacking tool.
“Then all of a sudden, a loud blast was heard and I lost consciousness for a few seconds. When I came around I saw my elder daughter lying in a pool of blood and she died on the spot”, recounted the mother with tears welling up in her eyes. She said that her younger daughter was found grievously injured. Even as the villagers tried to save her, she too succumbed to the injuries.
She said that her daughters were reading in Class VI and Class X respectively at Don Bosco School, Khoupum.
The mother said that they came to the field to help her. She has two sons who are elder to the deceased girls and they are currently studying at Imphal.
One Thanpuijai Golmei said that she too came across a bomb while clearing grasses at Sitheirong for cultivation of vegetables at around 10 am of February 9. Till 5 pm of the same day, the bomb was neither retrieved nor disposed by any security agency including police. A team of Gorkha Regiment came to the village on ROP duty.
Although they were informed about the discovery of the explosive, the media persons did not see any attempt on the part of the Gorkha Regiment to retrieve it.
WAD president Sobita Mangshatabam who took main responsibility for the visit to Leishok village demanded the Government to free the Leishok villagers from the nagging fear of bombs at the earliest.
The Gorkha Regiment must be aware that many of the explosive shells they fired had failed to go off. The Government ought to take serious note of the havoc caused by the regiment at Leishok and surrounding villages. A thorough enquiry must be instituted against them, Sobita demanded.
At the same time, the Government of India must do what is expected from them as a signatory of the Geneva Convention Common Article III and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, she continued.
Notably, Leishok village has around 63 households with a total population of around 600. It is located 9 Kms from Imphal-Khoupum road, about 17 Kms short of Khoupum valley. But the road leading to the village from Imphal-Khoupum road is extremely deplorable. Mud and dust cover the whole length of the road.
Earlier, orange was the main produce of the village but all the orange plants have perished a few years back. Subsequently, the villagers have switched to cultivation of banana, yam, pumpkin etc.
Ng Liklaileima Arambam