Soon after ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur last month, 20-year-old Jamngaihkim Gangte and six of her family members left their home in Imphal to get to a nearby CRPF relief camp. However, only four of them made it after hours of dodging murderous mobs and being cooped up in a car boot.
While two of them were killed by a mob, one of them was separated from the family and found days later.
The family managed to reach Delhi and is among more than 60 living in two relief camps set up in Dwarka for those affected by the Manipur violence, which claimed at least 98 lives.
As violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, Gangte and her family moved to a relative's house in Imphal and returned home the next morning.
"When we returned home, we found out that there was a CRPF relief camp nearby. So, we packed some essentials and important documents and decided to go there," Gangte told PTI.
She and her family members -- her mother, brother, sister-in-law, cousin and aunt with her one-year-old baby -- left in a car. Some of her cousins were travelling in another car.
"We left around 10 am and the roads were empty for some time. Around half-a-kilometre from the camp, our car was surrounded by a mob. Some people opened the doors and pulled us out of the car. They poured kerosene on the car and set it on fire," Gangte said.
"The mob started beating my brother and we were trying to protect him. Then a man made us sit on a bench and started questioning us about our ethnicity. We told them that we were Mizo and they almost let us go but some of them doubted us and stopped us," she said.
Gangte's relatives who were travelling in the other car managed to flee.
Later, Gangte and her mother too managed to escape and hid in a nearby building but in vain.
"The mob found us within 10 minutes," Gangte said, adding that they were dragged out by men armed with iron rods and sticks.
Once outside, she said, one of the men who was part of the mob whispered to her that she should run away if she wanted to survive.
"I turned around one last time before fleeing and saw my brother lying in a pool of blood and surrounded by a mob while my mother was trying to shield him," she recalled.
"I started to run and spotted my cousin and aunt with her baby," she said. Two strangers helped the family hide in a government building.
"While hiding in the government building, I started contacting all the helpline numbers but didn't get a response from anywhere.
"After a while, a police officer answered my call and said that they had picked up the bodies of a man and an elderly woman from the spot where we were attacked by the mob. I understood that it was my mother and my brother," said a distraught Gangte.
After five hours of hiding in that building, a man helped the family reach the nearest relief camp.
"I, my cousin, my aunt and her baby hid in the boot of the man's car. The man who helped us said if we get caught on the road, all of us would be killed but we had no other choice.
"As it was very dark and suffocating inside the car boot, my aunt's baby was crying. The man played loud music in his car to cover up the noise," she said.
Days later, Gangte's sister-in-law, who was found by CRPF personnel, was reunited with the family. The family got inside the airport on May 6, even though their flight to Delhi was scheduled for May 10.
Gangte's sister-in-law is undergoing treatment at the AIIMS trauma centre here.
Clashes broke out in Manipur after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The violence was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals -- Nagas and Kukis -- constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
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