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One Year Completes: Uncertainty Remains in Violence-Hit Manipur

The caste violence that started on May 3 last year is still continuing in Manipur. Many families had to leave their homes after the violence. At the same time, many Meitei-Kuki couples have to live separately. Imagine what would be going through the heart of a mother who gets a chance to see her children once in a month. 

There is a father who has not seen his daughter since her birth. At the same time, women fear that their husbands will leave them and what will happen next. What will happen in the future? 

Many people are worried about such questions. Meeting only once a month, not being able to see children and the fear of breaking the relationship in future has become the destiny of these people.

in the ethnic conflict-hit state, the Meiteis are in majority in the Imphal Valley while the Kukis are living in the hilly areas. The situation still remains tense in the state where inter-caste marriage couples are still bearing the brunt of this violence. 

More than 200 people have been killed and thousands displaced in the violence since May 3 last year. 

There are many compassionate stories about these couples. There is a mother who is able to meet her children once a month, while a father has not seen his daughter since her birth. So much so that the situation has become such that families are in danger of breaking up. 

The situation of conflict between castes is such that a woman fears that her husband will leave her, while a married couple is wondering what their future will be. 

There is uncertainty in the minds of these people regarding the future.

Irene Haokip, who belonged to the Kuki community, started living in Imphal after marriage . Haokip, 42, had to return to his parents in Kuki-dominated Churachandpur last year. Meanwhile, her husband, a five-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter are living in Imphal. 

Haokip said, 'My husband used to work as a construction worker. I met him during the construction of a house in my neighborhood in Bishnupur. We fell in love. He used to come to the area often to meet me. We got married in 2018 and had two children.'

Bishnupur is between Meitei-dominated Imphal and Kuki-dominated Churachandpur. Earlier people of both the communities lived here and now it is considered as a buffer zone. 

Haokip said, 'My husband sent me to my parents last year. He was concerned about my safety in the valley after the conflict started. The children are with them because they feel that they are not safe in Churachandpur because they are Meitei children.'

She told that she goes to the neighboring state of Mizoram every month to meet her husband and children. For this they have to travel 15 hours one way.

She told, 'Husbands also come there with children. Many other couples are also doing this. We meet once a month and come back to our respective homes. My children miss me but it is like choosing one thing between survival and mother's love.'

Many local people say that Meitei-Kuki marriages were not uncommon in Manipur earlier and there was never any social problem regarding them. 

People of both the communities used to mix with each other. The trouble started on May 3 last year when a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was taken out in the hill districts against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status and violence broke out.

Laishram Singh of the Kuki community became a father only about a month after the violence started, but he has not yet seen his daughter's face. When he came to know that his wife was pregnant in 2022, Singh was overjoyed and had many dreams for his daughter.

The couple went shopping for clothes and toys ahead of the birth of their first child in June. But destiny had something else in store.

After the violence started, Singh moved to the Kuki-dominated hill area and his wife Achanaba, who is a Meitei, stayed back there. Achanaba's parents died five years ago and she had to move to a relief camp in the Imphal Valley in May last year where she gave birth to a baby girl in June. Singh has not seen his daughter's face for the last 11 months.

Achanaba sometimes fears that this distance might end their relationship. He said, 'I am neither a widow nor a divorcee. Then I don't know what kind of separation this is.'

Nirmala, from the Kuki community, who ran a shop in the women's market Ima Keithel till last year, now lives in the hilly area and has no permanent source of livelihood. Her husband is a Meitei and lives with his son and parents in Sugunu area of ​​Imphal, dominated by this community. Initially Nirmala's husband used to send money but now he has stopped doing so.

Nirmala fears that her husband might leave her. There is often discussion between Pema Dimpu of Meitei community and her Kuki husband that they should go and settle in some other state. Pema lives in Imphal, while her husband lives in the hilly area.