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Hit With Over 80 Pellets, This Martial Artist is Now Training to Win Mr Manipur

When The Quint met Uttam in the hospital last year, the doctor said that 60 pellets had been taken out of his head.

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"My brother always wanted me to become a champion. I regret that I failed to fulfil his wish because of the unfortunate turn of events. However, I am determined not to break his heart. One day, I will become a champion."

When The Quint met Uttam Soibam on 27 September 2023 at Raj Medicity Hospital in Manipur's Imphal, the doctor said that he had already taken out more than 60 pellets, and there were some more left to be taken out. Eight months on, the 17-year-old still has 20 pellets inside his head.

Sitting outside his house in Imphal, on 20 April 2024, he tells The Quint that he underwent two surgeries at Raj Medicity, and was later transferred to Shija Hospital, also in Imphal. But even that wasn't enough.

"Seeking further treatment, I went to AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) in New Delhi, where three doctors advised against removing the remaining 20 pellets due to the risks involved."
Uttam Soibam
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In September last year, Uttam was severely injured during violent clashes between protestors and security forces in Imphal, the capital of the conflict-torn state in Northeast India.

Imphal was rocked by student-led protests after photos (dated 8 July) of the bodies of 17-year-old Luwangbi Linthoingambi Hijam and 20-year-old Phijam Hemanjit Singh (both Meitei students) surfaced online. They went missing on 6 July and remained untraced since then. A national-level Wushu player, Uttam was one of the hundreds of students injured in the clashes.

The attack on him was so severe that it was not possible for him to participate professionally in Wushu anymore. "Despite being invited to the recent Northeast Games, I couldn't participate due to the risks posed by the 20 remaining pellets, he lamented. 

But he is not one to give up.

Uttam is now training to win the Mr Manipur contest that is scheduled for December 2024. He also speaks about the widespread suffering caused by the year-long ethnic violence, and how peace is paramount.

Watch the full video to learn more about Uttam's story since the pellet injury.

[For a year now, Manipur has been torn apart by ethnic violence. Hundreds have died, and thousands have been displaced, with their future still uncertain. As Manipur violence touches the one-year mark on 3 May 2024, The Quint is back on the ground in pursuit of facts, untold stories, and the truth. Apart from the risks involved in reporting from a conflict-ridden area, such reports require both time and resources. YOUR support helps us in our endeavour.]

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Manipur violence 

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