Chandel, Manipur: Life is yet to return to normalcy for the villages in Chandel, where 18 Indian soldiers were killed in a deadly ambush two weeks ago. At least three villages located a few kilometres near the ambush site are still deserted; villagers fear for their lives and are reluctant to return home.
Paraolon village is home to more than 400 people, but their huts remain empty even after two weeks. Insurgents of the NSCN (K) group had ambushed a party of Indian soldiers about 3 kilometres away from this village.
Since then the army has cleared most signs of the ambush from the spot. The debris of two burnt army trucks has been placed at this village. Army claims to have eliminated insurgents on the Indo-Myanmar border after the ambush.
But for most people who live in villages in this area, life may not be the same anytime soon. Most are still living with their relatives in Chandel town, and very few have chosen to stay on as they are subjected to rigorous scrutiny by the Indian Army and the Assam Rifles.
The Multuk village, is one of those where some villagers chose to stay back. It is also home to a camp of the army's 6 Dogra Regiment, the same that was targeted in the Manipur ambush. For most villagers, getting back their normal lives seems distant.
Marginal farmers like Mr Konkhotong say, "It's difficult to survive. We need to eat. If we can't work how will we eat? Even the politicians have not come here post the incident. We should be given something to eat. We are not permitted to go anywhere".
The Indian Army maintains it does not want to trouble civilians living in the area during its operations, but for now, the ground realities are somewhat different. The locals here seem to have become unwitting pawns in the conflict.