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“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.” – Herbert Hoover
The picturesque landscapes of Manipur, known for their lush greenery and vibrant cultures, have been marred by the horrifying clash between two communities that erupted on May 3, 2023. The Tribal Solidarity March held on that fateful day unwittingly ignited a tragic conflict between the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi-Mizo and Meitei communities, tearing apart the social fabric that once bound neighbors together.
The aftermath of the clash paints a haunting picture: weeping women and children, plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky, and the unmistakable signs of houses being set ablaze. What was once a bus where neighbors shared moments of joy had transformed into a battlefield where the two communities now hunted each other, as if they had been granted licenses to kill in public spaces—most of the violence being perpetrated by the Meitei community.
As the violence escalated, the national highways and roads became stained with the cold blood of innocent men, women, and children. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that the Government of Manipur had no choice but to issue a shoot-at-sight order in extreme cases.
Among the tragic victims of this devastating clash was David Lalremruot, also known as David Hrangchal (1978-2023), a simple day laborer and a father of three children. Originally from Pherzawl town in the Pherzawl District, David had relocated with his family to Lilong Chazing in Canchipur, seeking a better life for his loved ones. For around nine years, the family had called Lilong their home, with David working tirelessly to support his wife and children by taking on any work he could find in the area.
However, on the afternoon of May 4th, 2023, the family was subjected to the most brutal and heinous acts of violence. While villagers attempted to protect David Hrangchal’s family from the ruthless mob, their efforts proved futile in the face of overwhelming brutality.
The self-proclaimed volunteers from the Meitei community conducted an interview with David Hrangchal’s family, which was subsequently broadcasted in the valley’s media. The family members were coerced and instructed on what to say and what not to say before the media. David’s wife, in her own words, stated, “The questions we were asked were all dictated by them; they told us how to answer in front of the media.”
These self-styled volunteers conveyed to the media that they had not harmed any civilians from the tribal communities and that they were different from them. Tragically, around 1:30 pm on May 4th, during the interview, David Hrangchal was pulled from the group and subjected to a merciless beating by the volunteers. His wife, in tears, recalled, “This was the last time I saw my husband.” While the self-proclaimed volunteers continued to brutalize David Hrangchal, his wife and children were moved to a safer location. It was there that a distraught villager woman cried out, “All are dead, all of them are dead.”
Believing that everyone was deceased, the assailants decided to place David Hrangchal’s lifeless body inside a sack. They then made their way to Manipur University, ominously stating, “We have more work to do at the University.” Meanwhile, David’s wife and young children were taken to a nearby Meitei Muslim village, crossing the river with the help of skilled young swimmers who used a motor tire as a makeshift flotation device.
David Lalremruot Hrangchal breathed his last at Loor Hospital on May 4, 2023, around 5:15 pm. His tragic passing has left behind a grieving wife and children, and his lifeless body remains at RIMS Hospital to this day, serving as a poignant reminder of the devastating consequences of the ongoing violence in Manipur.
The harrowing account of David Hrangchal’s fate serves as a stark reminder of the tragic human toll of the conflict that has engulfed Manipur. It reflects the urgent need for reconciliation, peace, and justice in the region. As communities grapple with the aftermath of violence, it is crucial for all stakeholders, including the government, civil society, and the international community, to work tirelessly towards healing the wounds of Manipur and preventing further bloodshed.