A group of 21 students from Manipur has found refuge at Sarvodaya Co-Ed Senior Secondary School in Delhi, escaping the distressing ethnic conflict that continues to haunt their state.
The northeastern state is witnessing horrifying violence between the tribal Kukis and the non-tribal Meiteis since 3 May. More than 180 people have been killed and thousands have been displace.
Many Manipuris have fled to Delhi to flee the carnage.
For Dinlianniang, enrolled in the sixth standard, the situation in her village, New Lamka, weighs heavily on her heart. "I am really scared for my village and my people. I am small now, I cannot do anything," she said. However, her mother's encouragement to make a difference through education drives her forward.
Jamhao Touthang, hailing from Imphal West, Manipur and now in the eleventh grade, recounts his journey to safety.
“I carried my grandma on my back to Assam Rifles camp. We stayed in the Assam Rifles camp for about 5 days or maybe a week after which we left for Kangpokpi. From Kangpokpi, I came to Delhi and my parents left for Tengnoupal,” he said.
Lallungdam, an eighth- grader, who had seen houses burning in his village Leimakhong Mission Veng was sent by his parents to Delhi to live with his paternal aunt.
“I came here with my aunt who lives in Delhi. My parents are in Manipur because they do not want to leave our home. If the violence is over and there is peace, I will go back and study in Manipur. I miss my friends, parents, elder brother and sister the most,” he shared.
“I express my feelings of missing them, but they insist that I refrain from mentioning it. They advise me to focus on my studies diligently so that I can become an officer in the future,” he added, talking about his parents with whom he only has conversations over the phone now.
The Hindi Hurdle
While the students have adapted to their new school, language remains a significant hurdle for some. “For me, it is difficult to learn and understand Hindi language. I cannot read Hindi. I study by learning Hindi words written in English by my aunt,” Lallungdam shares.
Speaking on similar lines, Dinlianniang mentioned, “I studied in a different language in Manipur. It is not the same language (Hindi). It is hard for me to understand because we used to talk in a different language in our village.”
To bridge this linguistic gap, the school has initiated additional Hindi classes. "We opted to conduct these Hindi classes to address the specific needs of these students. We recognized the necessity to begin with fundamental Hindi concepts," said Suryakanta Varma, a Hindi teacher.
A Sense of Home
Beyond academics, the school is also making efforts to provide a sense of familiarity. “Some students excelled in particular sports in Manipur, which might not be as widely practiced here. We've extended these students the opportunity to engage in their preferred sports, allowing them to feel more at home,” said Principal Suman Kain.
Existing students have also stepped up to create meaningful connections with their new friends.
Shekhawat, a friend of Lallungdam, praises his friend's calm and composed nature and reveals how he assists in translating Hindi sentences into English, aiding Lallungdam's understanding.
He also lauded Lallungdam’s football skills.
“He is good at football. We play in the evening. We also have a competition after August 15th. Yesterday, during our junior team’s match, we also had a senior among us. Lallungdam's exceptional performance on the field led to him being selected as a substitute for their team,” Shekhawat claimed.
Dinlianniang has found a helping hand in fellow student Sonakshi, who selflessly assists her with Hindi. “Every time I express my confusion, she reassures me not to be concerned and assures me that she will solve the problem,” she said.
Rahul Rawat, Jamhao’s friend, expressed his surprise upon hearing news related to Manipur and recalled how he initiated his friendship with Jamhao. “I was extremely shocked when I heard about Manipur in the news. On his first day, I noticed him sitting by himself. So, I approached him to exchange greetings and that marked the beginning of our friendship. He is a good guy,” he said.
You can follow The Quint's coverage of the Manipur violence here.