Little joys of relief camps: Over 180 babies born in shelters for displaced in Manipur

"When I held my twins in my arms, all my miseries melted away," a 26-year-old woman at a relief camp in Kakching district told PTI.
A displaced person from the Meitei community lives in a relief camp in Moirang, near Imphal.
A displaced person from the Meitei community lives in a relief camp in Moirang, near Imphal.Photo | AP

IMPHAL: Cradling her newborn, Hatneu says she has named her baby, born in a shelter for the displaced in Manipur, Nganthoibi which means shining light.

Amid the trauma of 11 months of conflict, violence and continuing uncertainty, for nearly 200 displaced women like Hatneu, who is from the Kuki tribe, who have taken shelter in different relief camps across the state, the period is unforgettable for a different reason -- they welcomed their newborns.

"When I held my twins in my arms, all my miseries melted away," a 26-year-old woman at a relief camp in Kakching district told PTI, requesting not to be identified or photographed. Her twin boys are now four months old." When they grow up, I will tell them these stories."

"This is an unforgettable period for me for a different reason and I want to remember it that way years later. I don't want any memory of this period to haunt my children when they grow up," she said.

A displaced person from the Meitei community lives in a relief camp in Moirang, near Imphal.
With two weeks to LS polls, no political rallies, posters in strife-torn Manipur

When she landed at the relief camp, she knew it was going to be very tough.

"Pregnancy is a period when we are suggested to take extra care of ourselves, not do any heavy-lifting, not take stress, and eat well. However, for me this period was all about survival."

The hill state has witnessed sporadic, sometimes intense, ethnic clashes since May 3 last year between the majority Meitei community and Kukis, resulting in loss of over 200 lives.

While Meiteis population is concentrated in Imphal city, Kukis have shifted to the hills.

The violence displaced thousands of people, with officials saying more than 50,000 people are living in camps following the unrest.

Lu Lamva Ngahjemkim, a Kuki-zo woman, was eight-month pregnant when the clashes broke out in May 2023. She and her family landed at a relief camp in Churachandpur, the epicentre of the violence then.

A month later, she gave birth to her daughter Christy who became the "silver lining in these grim times".

"We were having dinner at home when the clashes broke out and everybody started rushing out… We had to hide in the nearby hills for several hours until the forces rescued us.

For once, it felt our world was crashing down… bit by bit we had built our house and livelihood and within a day all was gone," she told PTI.

A displaced person from the Meitei community lives in a relief camp in Moirang, near Imphal.
'Nation forgot Manipur':Traders at world's only women-run market question poll relevance amid unrest

Nine-month-old Christy has now begun crawling and is a centre of attention at the relief camp.

PTI visited six relief camps in the Meiti-dominated Imphal Valley and Kuki-zo dominated Churachandpur district.

Among the women who are counting their blessings in form of their newborns at the relief camps are four who gave birth to twins.

Hatneu, who has found shelter at a different camp in Churachandpur, used to run a bamboo goods shop in Imphal valley earlier.

She is in an alien set up, but is loving her motherhood.

"I am a Kuki but I have always lived in the Valley only. Now we were forced to relocate here due to circumstances. Last month I gave birth to my baby at a nearby health facility. I have named my baby girl -- Nganthoibi which means shining light,” she said.

Hatneu said at leat 15 babies have been born in that camp.

A dedicated camp set up for pregnant women in Imphal valley saw the birth of 168 babies.

The facility, which was opened on May 21 last year, hosted 164 women, who were brought there from different relief camps around the state.

The camp was winded up in February when no pregnant women were found in the relief camps in the valley.

"Earlier, pregnant women were staying in the same camps as other women and it was felt they will not get the adequate space and care needed during the period. So a dedicated camp was set up, where 168 children were born between May 2023 till February this year,” said Manipur BJP President Sharda Devi who spearheaded the initiative.

"We allowed one person to stay with each pregnant or lactating woman to serve as an attendant while the rest of the family members stayed in other camps," she added.

A displaced person from the Meitei community lives in a relief camp in Moirang, near Imphal.
EC: Displaced people can vote if they return to Manipur

As Manipur goes through a period of uncertainty, there is an anti-poll sentiment in the state among the displaced. But the elections for the two Lok Sabha seats in Manipur has been announced alongside the general elections. They will be held in Manipur in two phases on April 19 and 26.

While Inner Manipur and some segments of Outer Manipur will vote in the first phase on April 19, the remaining segments of Outer Manipur will vote in Phase 2 on April 26.

Ngahjemkim says she wants to remember this period for the gift she got in her baby.

"Despite all odds, my daughter was born here and is healthy today. At a time when I thought none of us would survive… this seems like a miracle," Ngahjemkin says

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com