On the afternoon of May 4, in Manipur’s Lamphel, less than a kilometre from the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in state capital Imphal, a family of seven crammed themselves into a car, trying to escape the escalating violence in the area arising from tension between the Meitei and Kuki communities.
Leading the family was Mrs Gouzavung, under-secretary, agriculture & Manipur veterinary department, who lived in government accommodation in Lamphel. Increasingly anxious at the rising violence which had erupted a day earlier, she had decided it was time to relocate her family, like many other Kuki-Zomi families seeking refuge in nearby paramilitary camps.
With their destination mere kilometres away, a Meitei mob intercepted their vehicle and demanded to see their identity cards. As the mob recognised their ethnicity, a cry went up, “They are Kukis, get them out of the car!”
By the time the mob was done, Mrs Gouzavung and her 26-year-old son had been viciously bludgeoned to death as her teenage daughter watched in horror.
The daughter, Mrs Gouzavung’s daughter-in-law and another female relative carrying a baby managed to escape the scene, and the daughter-in-law remained briefly untraceable before being discovered unconscious with critical head injuries and broken bones, apparently the victim of a mob of Meitei women.
Mrs Gouzavung and her son joined the already overflowing pile of lifeless bodies in the RIMS morgue, her status as a senior state government official clearly no safeguard against her ethnic identity.