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Living peacefully with my Kuki neighbour

by Rinku Khumukcham
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My name is Sarangthem Romeo. I am a proud Meitei, born and brought up in Manipur. Unlike other days, today I feel a strong urge to declare my identity as Manipur continues to face a tangible threat from illegal Myanmarese immigrants. 
Since 3rd May, I haven’t slept peacefully. The headlines of the newspapers in Manipur have been dictating my sleep. A day without killings and house burnt, allows me to sleep longer in the wee hours. Oh how I envy those brothers, who are denied of internet. Since the ethnic violence, the internet has been bombarded with fake news, misinformation, and one sided reporting. Only God knows how I endeavour to think clearly, logically and see hope in these difficult times. 
I shifted to this crowded locality (Munirka) in Delhi in late 2018. My neighbour happens to be a jolly family from Churachandpur and only a brick wall divides our rooms. I think I have mingled with all their family members. The ladies call me Dada and I call them by their names and speak in Manipuri. This is rare in Delhi as no one cares about the next door guy. I know how they endeavour to cope up with life, inflation, job uncertainty, harsh weather etc.. They also know mine. No secret. 
Before the violence in Manipur, it was rare to be carried away by envy and enmity among people from Northeast in Delhi. We see each other as one, striving hard to succeed in life and be saved from the discrimination and ill treatment by the host community. I have never imagined that one day Kuki and Meiteis will engage in such violent and inhuman fighting within Manipur. Though in our high school days we anticipated a fight. How true are those gossips? 
It’s late June and I continue to live peacefully with my neighbour and friends from Churachandpur, Saikul, Kangpokpi and Mizoram. Sometimes I feel more relaxed and peaceful after having a chit chat with my neighbour. The body language and hardship old grandma takes to use the right word (in meiteilon) whenever she speaks to me and the jolliness of the occupants totally contrast the politicians and intellectuals thesis in the National daily. It also makes me think about how we can treat each other as enemies in our homeland and live as friends in another state. 
I believe there are numerous stories like mine that need to be told and retold. Maybe the might of the butt is stronger than the pen today. Time will only tell. As violence continues to rock Manipur, I continue to enquire about the well-being of my old Kuki friends and they too reciprocate. However, a few have changed their colors. I find joy in helping youths who have fled to Delhi sharing contact with people who can help them land a job. Sometimes they must be surprised how a Meitei stranger helps a Kuki in the midst of the violence. 
As a proud Meitei I also profess without any fear and clarity of mind that not all Kukis are poppy cultivators, drug peddlers, illegal immigrants and agents of violence. 
Like my neighbour, who is wedded to peaceful co-existence, hard work, fun loving and down to earth there are many more in Manipur enriching our motherland economically and culturally. They longed to see a peaceful Manipur where their hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. Greater Mizoram or an imaginary state can’t fulfill their aspirations.  
As the ‘missing man’ continues to remain silent, let us continue to see the hope among the indigenous people of Manipur. The very moment when all the ethnic communities, caring individuals come forward and interact, a tranquil Manipur will emerge. Delhi is too far. Placing hope solely on Delhi will delay the dawn of that day. 

Sarangthem Romeo
Kakching Khunou lamhaba leikai.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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