01 Oct 2023  |   05:47am IST

Manipur: Life on the Edge

On 3 May 2023, ethnic violence erupted in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur between the Meitei people, a majority that lives in the Imphal valley, and the Kuki tribal community from the surrounding hills. The continuous violence has led to the death toll touching 175. The worst hit is the Churachandpur district. Due to this violence, people have lost their homes and got separated from their families. Over 58,000 people, including 22,000 children and 300 elderly individuals, are currently in 351 relief camps in Manipur. Moved by their plight, Goa-based NGO Street providence started sending relief materials along with volunteers to provide succour to the people living in these relief camps. One of the volunteers who had the opportunity to accompany the relief team to Manipur twice is O Heraldo scribe JOSEPH FERNANDES, who presents an eye witness account on the situation on ground in Manipur even after four months since the violence began
Manipur: Life on the Edge

Churachandpur district is situated in the south west part of Manipur. The district is bounded by Senapati district in the north, Bishnupur and Chandel districts in the east, Assam and Mizoram in the west and Myanmar in the south. The topography of the district is hilly. The district got its name ‘Churachandpur’ from the Manipur king Churachand Maharaja, which is also called ‘Lamka’.

Churachandpur mainly follows a mono-crop economy during the non-monsoon months. Apart from agriculture, handloom and handicraft and weaving provide the livelihood of the people. The handloom and handicraft especially acrylic is an important output of the handicraft sector in the district. 

But this beautiful place has been worst-affected by the ongoing ethnic conflict, which has ravaged the north-eastern State.

Having visited the State of Manipur in mid-July, I could see protests on the streets by the women, holding placards demanding peace in Manipur. The situation was tense and one could hardly move around freely being curfew in force and heavy police deployed all along the streets.

Road Transport 

Road transport is the most important means of connectivity in hill districts of Manipur. The condition of the road in the State is worse compared to that in the Imphal valley. Most of the villages are not well connected and whatever road they have, cannot be used all round the year.

As we moved around in the capital of Manipur, the condition of roads were very bad and once could hardly dodge the potholes. Being monsoon season, rain water has added to the existing problems as it has made movement difficult. With rain stagnant water all around, the risk of vector-borne diseases is very high.

 Toilet and sanitation

Toilet facility and safe sanitation is totally neglected, ever since the violence erupted. Most families have pit latrines. Substantial households have “other” sanitation facilities, which includes open fields and similar non sanitary toilets. There are several families living in the relief camps but the toilet facility has very limited and irregular water supply. 

Having visited relief camps, what we noticed was that there were no basic facilities provided. No sufficient toilets and safe drinking water. The food cooked was also the same. The food provided at relief camps was just dal and rice. 


Winters are extremely cold here. So, if the violence continues for longer duration and the rehabilitation of the people living in relief camps gets delayed, one wonders how these people survive without any woollen clothing. 

Churachandpur is a major town of south Manipur, which is inhabited by the local tribe Kuki. Manipur is the home to many tribes such as Zomi, Kuki, Naga, Mizo, and Chin ethnic groups, apart from a dozen other communities from the rest of the country. 

Surrounded by small hills and valleys, this district is a reason to find happiness for anyone who longs for nature. But things are not rosy anymore.

People at relief camp sleep on the tarpaulin sheets spread on the floor, while some have mats. This was beyond one’s imagination. How can someone sleep on the floor without a mattress and bed sheet? 

The lactating mothers don’t get to eat nutritious food, which is going to have a long-term impact on the growth of their babies. Besides, there aren’t enough doctors to attend emergency situations. The nearest health centre is their only hope.


The children are yearning to return home and school amidst burnt books and uniforms. Some children living in relief camps in some areas have begun their classes while others such as those from the primary section, are yet to start with their classes. Since children live in relief camps, they miss their local school as they will have to seek admission in nearby schools once schools reopen. The children living in camps are hoping that one day the school will reopen and they will go back to school. 

The students who would be attending classes have already lost everything such as houses, books, clothes and moreover their hope. Many expressed their desire to go to school again. But they don’t know when and how.

Four months after ethnic violence erupted in Manipur in May, the children who once attended school, college, and tuition are now confined to relief camps, their memories of education fading amid harsh conditions of insecurity, hunger, unemployment and uncertainty.

These young girls, like so many others in similar situations, have been forced to put their education on hold. They have endured the trauma of fleeing their homes in the wake of violence, leaving behind not just their houses but also their school bags, books, and uniforms, all of which were lost to the flames of destruction.

This crisis extends beyond these individual stories. 

The ethnic violence has affected both the Kuki-zo minority tribal community and the Meitei majority community, causing not only social but also economic, educational, and ecological losses. Hundreds from both communities are stranded in relief camps. 

Children living in camps were just spending their time with no indoor or outdoor activities. Some of the relief camps have one carrom board, while other camps have one ball for all to play. This will certainly hamper their physical and intellectual growth. 


The wall of remembrance is a public memorial site constructed in honor of the Zo Community (Zomi – Kuki – Hmar – Mizo) tribal victims of the State sponsored ethnic cleansing that began on May 3, 2023. The site is constructed through the collective efforts of the Joint Student’s Body Lamka. It is proposed to be a site where families, friends, organisations and well-wishers come together to offer solidarity and pay tribute to the departed Kuki-Zomi-Hmar– Mizo tribal martyrs.


Iddhar Udhar