Thursday, February 22, 2024

Ethnic clashes, internet ban leaves Manipur students in Delhi in agony

Several people who were fleeing the violence migrated to Delhi over the past week and are putting up with the students who are staying here. Photo: Mohsina Malik/Maktoob

26-year-old Goel Haepkin’s life has overturned in the ethnic violence that broke out in the first week of May. Living in Delhi, he was informed that his home was among thousands of houses set ablaze.

“My parents are living in a relief camp in Manipur. I fear for my parents’ safety as well as my finances,” Haepkin said. He is anxious about what comes next as he is running out of savings.

“My cousins who fled from Manipur are living with me. I am looking after them, and my savings are almost drained. I will only sustain this month. I have no idea how I will manage everything next month”.

At least 73 people have been killed since violence broke out in Manipur between the members of two ethnic groups, Kuki and Meitei, on May 2.

Manipur students in New Delhi are facing a financial crisis after their parents are unable to send them allowances due to the continuous internet curbs in several villages in Manipur.

“Bank transfer is not possible because they are closed. If my parents have to send money, they will have to migrate to Mizoram or hand over a small amount of money to my relatives living in Assam, which is very expensive to do,” says Haepkin.

The students are fearing deferment of house rents among other expenses while news from their home state keeps them on the edge.

“I am under continuous trauma; it is not possible to overcome that as we were not expecting that our people who are living back home would have ever faced such violence, but the situation is not under control, nor is even our life stable anymore,” says Cindy Kim, a student at Delhi University.

“After I received a distressing call from my family, my mind is unable to process or proceed with my daily activities, but I am trying to carry on so that I can divert my mind and not scroll the phone to check any news that is emotionally breaking me from inside”.

Several people who were fleeing the violence migrated to Delhi over the past week and are putting up with the students who are staying here.

“Not only am I distressed, but the fear of eviction from this rented room is eating me from the inside. As a woman, I am not able to understand where I will go or whom I will believe. But what can I do? I am running out of money, and I do not have that much savings either. Since the internet is curtailed in my village, my parents are not able to send me any expenses, nor can I contact them every day.”

The Internet shutdown that began on May 2 remains in parts of Manipur, drawing a backlash.

Not only Kim, but many like her are also undergoing the same tension about how they will manage to pay rent, buy basic amenities, and even pay for school or college fees.

28-year-old Sal JoJo, who fled from Manipur to Delhi to escape the violence also echoes the same anxieties.

“I am living with my friends, and we are helping each other in terms of finances and are trying to save a little bit. Sometimes we eat one meal only, and sometimes we manage two meals in a day. We have stopped going out because it will add to our expenses, which we do not have,” JoJo said.

He is also seeking help from various organisations, approaching officials, or trying to reach state government for funds. but none of it got a positive response.

“We do not want to die of starvation, at least; the authority has to do something for us or provide helplines where we can seek help”, adds JoJo.

Panic Attacks, PTSD

The Manipuri students said they are not feeling safe on campuses anymore, and they fear they will be attacked or killed by other community members. They are also saying that their career is at stake if they have to drop out of college or change careers because of these fears.

“Since there were attacks on several Manipuri students by each other in Delhi, I have locked myself inside the room where I live,” says Nael Mishtigoi, a Kuki student at Jawaharlal University.

“I do not go alone; if I have to go, I will take or ask somebody to accompany me. I do not go to college anymore. I was preparing for a competitive exam but I stopped coaching as well. I am fearing that someone will attack or kill me, even though my friend received rape threats a few days ago,” Mishtigoi told Maktoob.

“We had friends from different communities, but we do not talk anymore. I only want peace for my homeland. I am hoping everything will be fine and everything will be normal in the coming days, but I am not sure how long it will take”, Mishtigoi lamented.

The estimated number of students living here in Delhi from Manipur varies between 5,000 and 10,000. Some people who have migrated to Delhi from Manipur after seeing the ongoing violence back home are suffering from mental health issues.

Jonathan Haokip, a student at Delhi University, says, “We are under trauma after seeing the news and hearing the situation from each other. To overcome that, three psychology students and a psychiatrist formed a group called “Rise Together” to help students afflicted with mental trauma.

Doctors are coming forward to help us, which is very helpful at this time. The people who fled from Manipur needed it most because many are having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and recall the horror, which is in a way deteriorating their health. They need this help right now, so the platform has been made to address the long-term effects of violence that have been inflicted on them,” Haokip added.

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