TODAY -

Meitei teacher carries Kuki kid on back, saves 30 students
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, July 10 2023: Going beyond the call of duty and cutting across ethnic divide and religion, a 27-year-old Meitei woman teacher carried a 6-year-old Kuki boy on her back and saved the lives of 30 students as violence gripped Bishnupur's Torbung on May 3 .

On May 3 when the "Solidarity March" of the All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (ATSUM) was on, normal classes were going on at the school.

However some time later in the afternoon, they found themselves crossing fields and travelling in the cover of the night to reach safety at Kwakta.

Ningthoujam Sonarita hails from Terakhong-shangbi.

She had joined Christopher Education at Govind-pur Torbung in Bishnupur district as a teacher and a warden just three months before violence erupted on May 3 .

The school has students from Pre-Nursery to Class X.The school's Director is a Meitei and the Principal is a Kuki woman.

The school's hostel had around 53 inmates including children/students and teachers on May 3 .

34 of them were of the Meitei community from the valley and 19 including a warden were of the Kuki community.

Recalling the events of the "horrific day", Sonarita said it was just like any other day and there were normal classes on May 3 at the school.

After school hours ended, at around 3 pm, the teachers and the students heard loud noises coming from the street.

As the school is situated near the street, they could see a huge crowd of people rallying.

Some of the youths were seen holding guns while many were holding sticks, she said.

Seeing the crowd yelling and shouting with guns and sticks, some of the smaller children began crying out of fear and the teachers were trying to console them, Sonarita said.

However, moments later they heard sounds of tear gas shells and guns.

As the children began to cry more and more, the teachers held a meeting with the Director and the Principal and made a decision to evacuate the children to safety.

The Director of the school then talked to the chief of a nearby Kuki village and safely evacuated the children and the teachers at his (chiefs) house.

"At the chiefs house, we heard that houses and shops belonging to Meitei community at Torbung have been targeted and burnt.

We saw smoke rising from houses in distance and some Meitei houses burning in the vicinity," Sonarita said.

Sensing imminent danger, the teachers then decided to evacuate the children to their homes.

17 students and one warden belonging to the Kuki community then headed to Churachandpur while the remaining 35, which included 30 students, decided to leave the place for the valley.

The 30 students included one Kuki boy of 6 .

At around 7 pm, they left the village.

Sonarita carried the 6-year-old boy on her back and hand-in-hand with the students, they started their journey in the cover of the night towards Kwakta, where her brothers would be waiting for them.

They travelled on foot on the bank of Khuga River, crossed vast tracts of fields and after more than three hours of walking in pitch dark, they reached Kwakta Muslim cemetery at 10.30 pm.

At the cemetery, Sonarita found her brothers and family members of the Director of the school waiting for them.

While Sonarita returned home with her brothers, the Director took the 30 children to his home at Moirang.

"When I first joined the school, I never thought that I would face such a situation.

Thinking of the incidents that day makes me shiver every time.

I was only thinking about the safety of my students at the time," said Sonarita.

The violence that started on May 3 has displaced thousands of people and killed many.

The violence has caused trauma to many children and adults alike.

The Government must take up all measures to end the violence and bring peace once again, she said.

Sonarita added that she wants to see Manipur's integrity intact with conditions for peaceful coexistence of all the communities.


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