In the aftermath of ethnic violence that left them homeless and bereft of their possessions, the displaced women staying in the relief camp in Manipur yearned for the solace of a simple, homely activity, that is farming or kitchen gardening.
‘Give us some seed to grow, that will make us feel engaged in some homely activity’, in a breaking voice displaced women in the relief camp shared pointing towards the little patch of land recently cleared, tears overflowing down their cheeks.
Their homes, once cherished for the memories etched on their walls, were ruthlessly dismantled during the violence, leaving them without shelter overnight. Since then, the displaced women have been haunted by memories of their lost homes.
Amidst tears, the displaced women in the relief camp expressed their heartfelt desire for the opportunity to cultivate a small piece of land recently cleared within the camp’s confines. They see this as a means to engage in productive and comforting work.
They shared stories of how they had to flee their homes in a hurry on the fateful night of May 3, 2023, when violence erupted, leaving them with no time to gather their belongings. Everything they had worked hard for, the wealth they had accumulated, their dreams and aspirations, were all left behind, consumed by the flames of ethnic violence.
The narrative unfolds as they recount their journey from Yaiphakol village in Churachandpur District to the relief camp in Bishnupur District, highlighting the trauma and lasting scars inflicted by forced displacement. The days leading up to their relocation to the relief camp were filled with fear and insecurity, with concerns about basic necessities.
‘Polyethene amanbakhunlaga chamthoklaga maduda chak haplaga charakhi, thawaibu hingladi khanduna’ (Meaning- picked and washed discarded polyethylene bags to use as food plates, in aspirations of being alive).
Appreciating the solidarity and charity service of the community people extended to them during hard times, womenfolk expressed superlative gratitude to the whole people of the community for their constant love and support. They believe it was this support that gave them the strength to work towards resettlement.
In a heartfelt conversation during a relief operation at the SC Girls Hostel of Thanga Wangma High School in Thanga Moirangthem Leikai, one woman pointed out the significance of making requests, symbolizing their newfound sense of ‘asking’ for help.
As a numerically minority Meitei community in Churachandpur District, their lives were upended overnight due to the ethnic violence. Their survival now depends on the charity of fellow community members, a reality they could never have imagined.
The Thanga Wangma Youth Club (TWYC), a local club, has taken a thoughtful initiative to provide a small plot of land near the community playground for farming activities. A dedicated group of like-minded individuals has offered seeds and organic manure in limited quantities to these displaced women.
The displaced women in the relief camp appreciate that farming on a small scale may not significantly contribute to their economic situation, but it brings them a sense of belonging and hope. Farming provides a meditative and healing experience, allowing them to connect with their roots and values.
“Thabakna punsini, thabak ngaihak subase potharini, mana-masing thabase yam nungai, hingdoumanli” (meaning- work is life, working for a while is recreational, farming vegetables gratifies self, igniting the sense of being alive), pointed out by an elderly lady in the camp.
She emphasized that while skill enhancement training programs such as detergent making, incense stick production, and food processing are valuable, they require investments.
Farming, on the other hand, demands less investment and more physical effort, making it accessible to the displaced individuals in the relief camp.
The displaced women in the camp look forward to support in realizing their dreams of promoting a work culture and sustainable livelihood through farming and other activities.
Their resilience and determination to rebuild their lives shine through their unwavering spirit.