Manipur ambush village lies totally deserted

Paraolon, (Manipur) June 19 (IANS) More than a fortnight after the fateful separatist ambush on an Indian Army convoy that left 18 soldiers dead, Paraolon looks like a village of animals – not people.

Only domestic animals can be seen in the village, one kilometre from which lies the hill road where three separatist groups pulled off the deadly ambush on June 4.

Two dogs, five cats and a few chickens greeted some journalists when they entered the village on Thursday. But at the entrance of the village are men in uniform – soldiers who question the scribes about the “purpose of your visit”.

Entry into the village was possible after a long “explanation” to the men in uniform, who reminded the journalists that “we also have human rights”.

The pets looked horribly starved. If not taken care in the next few days, they will not survive.

There is no one to feed them as every single villager fled Paraolon village immediately after the ambush, fearing military reprisals.

More than a fortnight later, the fear is yet to subside.

Not merely Paraolon but the neighbouring villages of Charlon and Kotal Khuntak are also totally deserted.

A few hours after the ambush, the residents of these villages, fearing reprisals from the army during its combing operations, started fleeing from their homestead and now the villages lie completely abandoned.

After almost two weeks, the security forces have granted access to the media beyond the ambush site, which had remained virtually under siege ever since the incident.

A team of mediapersons under the All Manipur Working Journalists Union Thursday toured the affected villages.

During the tour, the team could still see the charred army trucks, belongings of the soldiers, bullet projectiles and burnt bushes at the ambush site.

The two trucks charred during the ambush and full of bullet holes remain stationed at Paraolon village.

One truck was carrying six barrels of fuel and edible oil when the 6 Dogra Regiment convoy was attacked by the combined team of undergrounds.

In Paraolon village, as soon as the media team stepped out of their vehicles, a hunting dog approached them, which is uncommon in normal times.

These hunting dogs are considered quite aggressive and don’t welcome strangers.

However, the dog was in a pitiable condition, left unattended by its owners for the past fortnight or so. Its bones were sticking to the skin.

All houses at Paraolon were deserted while some abandoned domestic animals followed the scribes silently, perhaps looking for something to eat.

One starving cat had died and its decomposed body was found inside a room.

Along the 15-km stretch from Paraolon to Moltuk there are only four villages – Paraolon, Charlon, Kotal Khunthak and Moltuk – separated by a few kilometres each.

The residents of Moltuk, a Kuki village 10 km from the ambush site, decided to stay back. The other three are inhabited by the Lamkang Naga tribes – just 90 households altogether – and the inmates feared reprisals because the Khaplang group of the NSCN had claimed responsibility for the ambush.

“We were asked by army personnel not to venture out far from our village even to attend to our fields, hunting or other activities which are necessary for existence. We are now running low on our food stock,” said Moltuk resident Kunkhothong.

The state government had “failed to protect the people”, he added.

Once in a week the residents are allowed to fetch essential commodities in a bus that is run by the village chief. All schools and shops are also closed.

It is learnt that some residents of the other three villages have met state officials in the district headquarters for providing security to enable them return home.

It has not helped so far.

But the question is: How long can they stay away?

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