TODAY -

Resilient Apicha finds solace in newborn daughter
Source: Chronicle News Service / Mission Oinam

Imphal, September 24 2023: In the wake of a bitter and violent ethnic clash between Kuki and Meetei communities, families residing in the once tranquil village of Ekou have found themselves ensnared in a tempest of terror and displacement.

This clash has torn apart the fabric of peaceful coexistence that once bound the neighbouring communities.

As homes were vandalised and lives shattered, the harrowing experiences of the affected families have left indelible scars.

Among the inhabitants of Ekou village, Pukhrihongbam Apicha (30), who was into five months of pregnancy, clutched her three-year-old son and fled from her home seeking safety amidst the chaos on the night of May 3 when armed Kuki militants, accompanied by a civilian mob, unleashed havoc in the village.

Her singular concern that fateful night was the safety of her son and the unborn child life's hidden bud - as they fled their home.

Although she lost her home to the frenzied mob, she found solace momentarily from knowing her small family was safe and that she would soon meet her unborn child.

Yet, the lingering effects of the crisis continue to weigh heavily on her, having lost everything in a matter of moment.

Today, her life's hidden bud has blossomed into the world, not within the comfort of her home, but in the sombre atmosphere of a relief camp.

Despite her despair and losses, Apicha finds solace in her newborn daughter, whose innocent face manages to elicit a fleeting smile on her forlorn countenance.

In this episode of "Chronicles of Crisis," The People's Chronicle unravels the resilient spirit of Apicha, now taking refuge in a relief camp for pregnant and lactating women set up at Khuman Lampak Youth Hostel by BJP Manipur Pradesh, finding solace in her newborn child amidst the remnants of a fractured life, and join in bearing witness to the anguish of countless others facing the aftermath of the ethnic clash.

Apicha married Pukhrihongbam Jiban (35), a resident of Ekou village who drives passenger auto-rickshaw as a means of livelihood, in 2019.Their firstborn son is now three and a half years old.

After losing everything, the family now seeks refuge in two separate relief camps.

Apicha shared with TPC that the neighbouring villages of Ekou were settlements of Nepali, Naga, and Kuki communities.

Mulam (Kuki) village lies north of Ekou, Ngangpijang (Kuki) village to the south, Thangal Surung (Naga) village to the west, and Yengkhu-man (Meetei) village to the east.

Before May 3, residents of these neighbouring villages lived peacefully, fostering cordial relationships.

Today, the bond of brotherhood has been severed, and rebuilding these relationships seem nearly impossible, she opined.

Like many others in the state, Apicha also watched videos circulating on social media showing Kuki mobs rampaging, vandalising, and torching Meetei houses, even assaulting isolated Meetei residents in Churachandpur.

Being five months pregnant at the time with a three-year-old son, her primary concern was their safety.

Some villagers left home early in the evening, prompting her to flee after having the dinner around 8 pm, clutching her son on her side.

Within minutes, the marauding Kuki mob, accompanied by armed militants, started vandalising and burning their homes.

A slight delay would have cost her and her son's as well as the unborn child's lives.

The panic and trauma she experienced on that day remain vivid, she said, her eyes welling with tears.

She sought shelter in a relative's house in Sagolmang and then another in Pangei.

Later, they relocated in the relief camp set up at Naorem Birahari College in Khundrakpam, where they stayed for nearly a month.

As she entered her last trimester, she, along with her mother, moved to Khuman Lampak Youth Hostel on June 20.Since the relief camp was exclusively for pregnant and breastfeeding women, her husband, son, mother-in-law, and father-in-law stayed in a nearby relief camp at Khuman Lampak.

With the support of those managing the relief camp, she was admitted to the Little Clinic at Nagaram, where she underwent a C-section delivery on September 8 .

The hospital did not charge a single rupee for the procedure and provided medicines free of cost.

Upon discharge, the hospital authorities even handed her Rs 1000 for purchasing medicines.

Since she is residing in a special relief camp, she receives regular check-ups from doctors and nurses.

The meals are nutritious, and they even prepare her preferred dishes.

She expressed her gratitude to the hospital authorities, BJP Manipur Pradesh, relief camp volunteers, doctors, and nurses for their assistance and hospitality.

Apicha confided that despite the loss and trauma she endured, looking at her newborn daughter's innocent face brings her a modicum of comfort.

However, every sight within the relief camp and the realisation that she has no home to return to often rekindles the pain and vivid memories of that harrowing night of May 3.This crisis has rendered not only her family but also her newborn daughter homeless, a feeling she can't shake off.

Nevertheless, she still yearns to return to her village and rebuild their lives anew.

She urged the government to deploy adequate security to ensure their safety.

After all, there is no place like home, she pointed out.


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