| File picture of the NSCN-IM camp at Siroy |
Imphal, Feb. 10: Siroy’s cup of woes seems to be overflowing. The latest worry being an alleged demand by the Assam Rifles for a “no damage claim” certificate from the village where the troops were recently engaged in a standoff with NSCN (Isak-Muivah) militants.
Sources said the villagers had come under fresh pressure even before they could resume normal life, which was affected by the standoff that started on January 19 and ended on February 2.
No Assam Rifles official was available for comment. But sources said the security force had placed the demand following allegations by the Siroy Non-violence Committee that the troops had cut down trees from adjoining forests during the standoff and used these as firewood to keep themselves warm during the chilly nights.
The certificate would help the central paramilitary force to avoid any kind of hassles — legal or financial — in the future, they added.
The sources said the alleged demand had added to the woes of the villagers who were living in a state of “perpetual” misery. “First it was the standoff, then the fear of landmines, then fear of poor harvest and now this alleged demand,” one of them said.
The Assam Rifles had cordoned off the NSCN (I-M) camp on January 19, asking the 25-odd cadres to either surrender their weapons or return to one of the designated camps. The troops maintained that opening up of the camp at Siroy in Ukhrul district of Manipur violated ground rules. They finally escorted the cadres out of Siroy on February 2 morning.
“Though both the troops and the cadres withdrew, the villagers could not resume normal life as they feared that landmines could have been planted in and around the village during the stand-off. They started moving freely only a few days ago after the district administration declared that the area had been completely sanitised,” Artex Shimray, the spokesperson for Tangkhul Coordination Committee on Siroy Siege, said over phone from Ukhrul.
He said the villagers had started sowing seeds this year without the annual ritual and celebrations, which are held from January 27 to 31 every year.
The villagers are “worried” that they will not have a bumper harvest this year because they have missed the seed sowing festival.
Shimray said the village was limping back to normality, but an uneasiness prevailed among the 1,500 villagers as troops continued to put pressure on them to sign the certificate. The village authority has been maintaining that it cannot sign the document without holding a meeting of the villagers. No date has been fixed for the meeting yet.