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Muslim areas of Manipur hardest hit by floods
|Floods are a rarity in Manipur, to the extent that they are not part of the recorded memory. That is why the present deluge has left people stunned. Half of the Muslim-populated areas is completely submerged in flood waters, forcing people to flee to "safer" places.
Crops and thousands of houses have been destroyed by the fury of floods that show no sign of abating. The state’s Muslim population is dependent on agriculture. The submergence of large areas of agricultural fields amounts to breaking the community’s backbone.
Schools, colleges, and madrasahs have either been converted into relief camps or submerged completely. Government seems to have drawn up no concrete plan to deal with the disaster.
On August 13, the Imphal and Iril rivers (both converge at Lilong) overflowed and made their way into the state’s largest Muslim-concentrated area, Lilong, engulfing 24 polling areas out of 28, rendering 40,000 people homeless in this locality alone.
Out of these marooned people, only 6,000 can be provided help in the relief camps set up by the community. The remaining are forced to set up make-shift huts on the river banks. For the first three days the helpless people were left to fend for themselves. Government did nothing to save the people, although it had full knowledge of the situation. Yet they chose to stay back. Apart from Lilong, places like Kshetrigaon, Keirao, Thoubal Moijing and Yairipok, where Muslims constitute a sizeable section, are submerged.
About 8,000 houses have been completely destroyed or submerged. The victims in the relief camps and make-shift huts have nowhere to turn to. The Muslim community has suffered an estimated Rs 50 crore loss.
With the water level still rising (though slowly) the condition of the flood victims becomes more worrisome. Epidemics are likely to break out because of the unhygienic conditions in the cramped camps and make-shift huts. Malaria and cholera are already rampant in the region. Keeping this in view, the level of medical intervention claimed by government sounds ridiculous.
In the midst of this gloom, the effort by some Meiteis to help Muslims has come as a ray of hope for inter-community relations. They supply drinking water and set up camps for flood victims.
The shattered economy will take years to build again. Muslims need help from everyone to rebuild and rehabilitate. In the meantime, government has distributed a paltry 300 bags of rice to the worst affected Lilong. It is "considering" to request the Centre to declare deluge as a national calamity.
¯ Shakil Ahmed in Imphal