‘No Home to Return to’: Kuki and Meitei Students in Delhi Amid Manipur Violence

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to Manipuri students to understand the challenges they are facing.

8 min read

“We are neither safe here in Delhi nor at home in Manipur," said a 25-year-old post-graduate student of Delhi University's Faculty of Arts, who did not wish to be identified.

Meanwhile, Margaret Haokip, a PhD student from Delhi School of Economics, who belongs to the Kuki community recalled a terrifying call from her sister in Imphal one night.

For over 95 days, Manipur has been on the boil, after ethnic clashes broke out between the Meitei and Kuki communities. At least 140 people have been killed so far, over 40,000 have fled their homes and hundreds of houses, places of worship and vehicles have been vandalised across the state.

The prolonged strife in Manipur has resulted in a distressing situation for numerous students from the state residing in the national capital. Fear, helplessness, safety of their families and an uncertain future haunts the Manipuri students in Delhi. The students have also been financially burdened due to the internet shutdown in Manipur.

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to three students each from the Kuki and Meitei communities, to understand their plight.  


‘Sister Fled from Home in Imphal’

“I was shocked and frightened. That night, I wondered if I will see her (sister) again... I was scared that I will never be able to meet her again,” a teary-eyed Haokip told The Quint. She has been in Delhi for the last four years.

Since violence broke out, Haokip has not been able to return home. Though she is in touch with her parents and two siblings in Churachandpur on a daily basis, she has not been able to see their faces on video call.

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to Manipuri students to understand the challenges they are facing.

Maragaret Haokip, a Kuki student in DU recalls her sister's call on 3 May that her house was going to be attacked

(Illustration: Chetan Bhakuni/The Quint)

'Life Changed in 30 Minutes'

For Shaanba Arambam, a Meitei post-graduate (PG) student in DU, who was in Manipur the day violence broke out, life changed in a span of 30 minutes.

On 3 May, Arambam was on his way back to national capital after visiting his parents in Imphal.

“I was catching a flight back to Delhi via Guwahati on 3 May. The situation was peaceful, and it was a pleasant afternoon in Imphal Valley. But, when I landed in Guwahati, I heard that villages were being burnt, women and children raped, and senior citizens running for their lives and crying,” he said.

Arambam, who has been a student in Delhi since 2019, said he was shocked to see how the situation changed within minutes. "I felt a sense of fear and worry for my family, whom I had seen just hours before."


Mercy, a 28-year-old Kuki woman, who hails from the Kangpokpi district, one of the places most affected by violence in Manipur, told The Quint how she borrowed money from her friends in Delhi help her sister flee from Manipur.

“My sister, who is in college, had to run away from the hostel. She stayed in a relief camp. While staying in the camp, they had to be considerate about children, pregnant mothers, and senior citizens. So, they did not get to eat food some days and had to share limited food with four to five people,” she said.

Since her family was stuck in another part of Manipur, Mercy had to borrow money from her friends and help her sister flee the state.

"My sister is now staying with me. I hugged her when I met her first...even though I have asked my parents to come to me, they refused to do so as they want to help and support my community," Mercy told The Quint.

While most of students The Quint spoke to said they have not visited their homes since before the violence began, 22-year-old Shrikant Thokchom, a second-year LLB student at the Campus Law Centre in DU, went to his village in Kakching district for nearly a month in June during his summer break.


“Before I went, there were many clips that circulated across social media and WhatsApp groups that triggered us a lot, reminding us of our childhood when we had first-hand experience of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA),” said Shrikant, who belongs to the Meitei community.

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to Manipuri students to understand the challenges they are facing.

'Was woken up at 12 am and asked to leave my house as we were going to be attacked,' said Shrikant Thokchom 

(Illustration: The Quint)

Thokchom, who visited his hometown between 5 June and 29 June during his summer break, recalled how he was woken up at midnight and asked to leave his house out of fear of an attack on the village.

“It brought back many bitter memories of the violence we witnessed in early 2000s," he added.

‘Internet Ban in Manipur Leading to Cash Crunch in Delhi’: Manipuri Students 


With the disruption of internet services and restricted movement in the state, Manipuri students living in Delhi-NCR said that they are facing difficulties in receiving financial support from their families back home.

“I think twice before taking a rickshaw. I have to think twice before going out with my friends to grab a tea or a coffee. It may be just Rs 10. But Rs 10 rupees a day is Rs 300 a month. If I spend that much, what do I do during an emergency?” Thokchom asked.

A significant number of students are dependent on the assistance of relatives and friends living outside Manipur to cover their rent, as well as day-to-day expenditure.

A Kuki student, who did not wish to be identified, said he last received money from home three months ago. “I have to depend on my relatives in Delhi for money and it puts me in such an uncomfortable spot,” he said.


'Can't Concentrate On Studies...'

“When I try to study and concentrate, reality hits… And it hits hard,” a Kuki student said, on condition of anonymity.

A research scholar, Mercy has been in Delhi since 2017. "I am at the department most of the time. My professor has been extremely lenient with me and asked me to stay home if I feel mentally exhausted. Even if I’m working, I keep looking at my phone for any updates from my family,” she said.

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to Manipuri students to understand the challenges they are facing.

“When I try to study and concentrate, reality hits….it hits hard,” a Kuki student said.

(Illustration: Chetan Bhakuni/The Quint)

Meanwhile, The Indian Express reported that Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Singh said the university would provide all possible help to students from Manipur and added that any student in distress may contact the varsity administration.

‘Cried When I Watched Video of Two Kuki Women Being Paraded Naked'


On 19 July, a purported video showing two Kuki women being paraded naked towards a paddy field near B Phainom village in Manipur, allegedly by a mob of Meiteis, sparked global outrage.

The women in the video, who were visibly distressed and crying for help, were dragged and molested by their captors.

“I haven’t cried once since the violence broke down. But I cried after watching the video,” Thokchom, himself a Meitei, told The Quint.

“I lost all hope in humanity and Manipuri society. If that’s the future, they are trying to build for us then I don’t want to be a part of it. We don’t deserve to be a part of it,” Thokchom added.

Narrating her reaction after watching the video, Mercy said, “I felt like vomiting… I did not shed a single tear from my eyes but I was breathless”.


In regions of conflicts such as Manipur, it is women who remain vulnerable to sexual and humanitarian crimes. Women's bodies have long been the battleground for conflicts, where rape and torture are orchestrated combat tools used to inflict continuous suffering on the survivors.

Meitei student Shaanba said, “There were rumors from both sides that women were raped…it is as if people are using women to instigate the paternal, patriarchal ego of men."

In her opinion piece, social activist Kavitha Krishnan wrote: "The police knew – their team witnessed this atrocity, after all. They must also have seen the perpetrators gleefully film the atrocity: a trophy of their triumphant exploit."

“Why is it that a woman’s dignity is the reason for the world to come together and sit for justice over what’s happening in Manipur?” asked Mercy.


‘Lost Friends Over Conflict’

The unrest in Manipur has mirrored the sentiments of students staying in Delhi who said that relations between them have turned sour.

On 6 May, a clash broke out in Delhi University's North Campus after Kuki students alleged that they were attacked by a group of Meitei students after Kuki students were returning from a prayer.

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to Manipuri students to understand the challenges they are facing.

On 6 May, a clash broke out in Delhi University's North Campus area between Kuki and Meitei students

(Illustration: Chetan Bhakuni/The Quint)

According to Margaret, two of her Kuki friends were allegedly assaulted in campus.

“Before when we see anyone from Manipur irrespective of their community, we feel safe and happy to go talk to them. Post the violence, our relationship with Meitei students has changed. Now we just exchange courtesy and walk away,” Margaret said.


Thokchom, who has several Kuki and Naga friends said that they don’t talk anymore. “My Kuki friends, who are very dear to have stopped talking to me. I don’t view them as a Kuki, a Meitei or a Naga. But they started feeling insecure around me or don’t want to ‘divulge’ information around me, because they think I will pass the information to other Meiteis in Manipur,” Thockchom said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Kuki student said, “We are already different from the rest of Indians, and we often face discrimination. In such cases, we confide in fellow Manipuris. This violence has deepened the existing rift and has made it worse”.

While some students were upset that the violence came in the way of their friendships, others felt that this was bound of happen.

“It will be strange if our relationship stays the same,” another student said.


The 6 May violence has also increased fear amongst the students over their safety in Delhi.

“After the clashes in DU, where two of my friends were assaulted, I am afraid of stepping out of hostel alone. Even when I do, I take someone along or send my friends my live locations,” said Margaret.

The Quint visited Delhi University (DU) and spoke to Manipuri students to understand the challenges they are facing.

Post the 6 May clash between Kuki and Meitei students in DU, there is a sense of fear over their safety in Delhi.

(Illustration: Chetan Bhakuni/The Quint)


‘If I Return Home, I’ll Be…’

While some students anxiously waiting for the violence to simmer down to visit their families, many are afraid they have no home to go back to.

“Where is our home…we have nowhere to go back to,” a student said.

Students are also filled with guilt for having been away from their family who are suffering in Manipur.

Shrikant Thokchom said he was unsure if he had to feel “helpless” or “thankful” for being away from the violence.


“There is always this guilt and a state of helplessness of me being in a safer place while my family is suffering,” he told The Quint.

 “Just imagine, your mother and father can die any minute. Your homes can be torched any minute. Your sister can be raped any minute now. How do you not worry for them?” a Kuki student asked.


When The Quint asked if she would like to visit her family back in Manipur, Margaret said, “No, I cannot think of going home… the airport is in Imphal Valley and as soon as I reach there, I’ll be…”

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