Details of desecrated Temples laid bare Falling in place
Certainly not all, but certain important points are beginning to fall in place. Ever since the descration or destruction of Kuki Churches began to occupy an important place in the clash narrative, The Sangai Express in its own capacity had been urging civil society organisations concerned to give the total places of worship of the Meiteis which have been vandalised, desecrated, burnt, razed to the ground etc in the course of the bloody ethnic clash, and after more than 90 days of the violence, the answer has been provided. Thanks to the painstaking efforts taken up by the Umanglai Kanba Apunba Lup (UKAL), Manipur, India and the world now know that at least 393 worship places of the Meiteis have been destroyed. The count is not final, and it could be more and the figure given till now was unearthed after extensive investigation and research. It is also extremely important to note that no places of worship of the Meiteis have been targeted in Naga dominated areas. This is a point that should be kept in mind. The extensive research and investigation line maintained by UKAL is also clear in the manner in which it has managed to give a break up of the places of worhip, such as 44 places of worship dedicated to Umang Lai which is inclusive of 3 in Tengnoupal, 11 in Churachandpur, 4 in Kakching, 3 in Imphal East, 10 in Kangpokpi, 6 in Bishnupur and 7 in Imphal West. Umang Lai, the forest deity and this underlines the fact that the Meitei is one of the few groups of people in the North East who continue to worship nature to this day, a distinct tribal trait. And to think that the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) staged the Tribal Solidarity March on May 3 ostensibly against the demand that the Meitei tribal group be included in the Scheduled list of tribal people under the Constitution of India and nothing can get more farcical than this. UKAL has also listed the other places of worship of the Meiteis which have been desecrated and this include 88 sites dedicated to Apokpa Laipham, the ancestral deity of the Meiteis, at Tengnoupal (15), Churachandpur (38), Kakching (23), Imphal East (9) and Kangpokpi (3). UKAL also gave a total of 223 Hingkhol Lai (homestead deity) shrines which were desecrated at Kakching (41), Churachandpur (72), Bishnupur (20), Tengnoupal (43), Imphal East (30), Imphal West (4) and Kangpokpi (13). Moreover 16 more Temples dedicated to Hindu Gods were also razed to the ground. Well researched, and one wish that this finding had been made public on or before August 11, the last day of the Monsoon session of Parliament. Wonder how Union Home Minister Amit Shah would have taken to this brazen act of vandalism, while crying foul and approaching the European Parliament that so many Churches have been destroyed by the majority Meiteis.
The madness is mind numbing. It should be clear that it was not for any hatred or anything against Christianity that a number of Churches were demolished or desecrated at Imphal but was in line with the ethnic clash. As stated many times in this column, no Naga Churches were targeted and the biggest Church in Manipur-the Central Church of the Manipur Baptist Convention-which is not identified with any particular community continues to stand tall. The false narrative that has been peddled to the outside world is beginning to fall apart. It would also be grossly wrong to interpret the ongoing clash as one between the tribals and non-tribals for not all the tribal groups are involved-not all the tribal groups are infiltrators from across the border and many of them are not poppy cultivators or drug smugglers. The line has to be drawn clearly and any narrative that seeks to cast the clash as one between tribals and non-tribals should be rubbished. A look at the places of worship and deities of the Meiteis that have been desecrated should more than say something significant about the tribal traits of the Meiteis and what they are pressing for is their enlistment in the Scheduled list, though this is not at all central to the ongoing clash.