Sarah Baite Leaves Churachandpur To Flee Threats of Violence
Updated: Jan 30
(January 27) Ten days after complaining to the Churachandpur police that she was being threatened by Shlomo Sejalal Kipgen, Shavei Israel’s Manipur administrator, Sarah Baite decided she had had enough. Although she had told B'nei Menashe Council officials the previous day that she wanted their help to answer a letter from Shavei Israel chairman Michael Freund (see today’s article “Michael Freund writes to Sarah Baite”), she left the city on Wednesday without informing them where she was going.
The most recent threats received by Baite came from a small underground faction, a splinter group within the Kuki nationalist movement in Manipur. Although Sehjalal had warned Baite that the main Kuki movement, the Kuki National Organization, would take action against her if she didn’t withdraw her charges regarding the 2016 rape of her daughter by a Shavei Israel crony, his K.N.O. contact, our Newsletter learned from its B.M.C. sources, were low-level personnel who were subsequently told by their K.N.O. superiors to leave Baite alone.
It was then that Sehjalal turned to the splinter group, which is known for its extremism. As related by Baite before leaving Churachandpur, its commander phoned her and said, “The stick is waiting for you. If you don’t want a beating, you had better get out of its way.”
Asked by the B.M.C. why she was certain that it was Sehjalal who was behind the commander’s call, Baite said, “Who else could it have been? The group wouldn’t have known I existed if Sehjalal hadn’t asked it to get involved. What interest in my case could it have had?”
Although the name of this group and of the commander who threatened Baite are known to our Newsletter, B.M.C. officials have asked us not to divulge them. Both the man and the group are dangerous and unpredictable, they said. The group’s stronghold is the Churachandpur district of Tuibong, in which Sarah Baite lived at the time of her daughter’s rape. That, indeed, was why Sehjalal turned to it.
A resumé of the last two weeks in Sarah Baite’s life makes matters clearer:
January 11: Sarah files an FIR, a First Information Report, with the police in which she details the circumstances of her daughter’s rape and gives the name of its perpetrator, a member of the B’nei Menashe community now living in Israel.
January 12: Sarah is summoned to a hearing by the Village Authority of Tuibong. The Authority’s headman, Satkhohao, had sought to arrange a reconciliation between her and the rapist when her daughter’s case was brought before him in 2016 after Sarah was pressured into not going to the police. At the January 12th meeting, at which Sehjalal and the faction commander are also present, Satkhohao asks Sarah why, despite the agreement reached in 2016, she decided to go the police after all. Sarah explains her reasons. That same day, after the hearing, Sehjalal Kipgen phones her several times, threatening her with K.N.O. retaliation if she does not withdraw her FIR.
January 13: The Village Authority meets again in Sarah’s absence. It rules in her favor and informs her that it has no objection to what she has done.
January 14: Sarah files a second FIR against Sehjalal, accusing him of intimidation.
January 20: The faction commander calls Sarah for the first time. In the week following the Village Authority’s January 14th decision, it would seem, he has been persuaded by Sehjalal not to abide by it.
January 24: Sarah receives a letter from Michael Freund, which she cannot read because she knows no English. She turns to officials of the B.M.C., who translate it for her and agree to translate her reply. Meanwhile, the faction commander continues to threaten her over the telephone. That evening she informs the B.M.C. that she is scared and is leaving Churachandpur the next day, without waiting to answer Freund’s letter. She will, she says, look for work in the rice fields in the countryside.
January 25: Sarah leaves Churachandpur in the morning without telling anyone where she is going.
No one knows when she will return. Michael Freund will have to wait for his answer until she does.