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Kuki-Zo and Meitei couples cast optimism for harmony and peace despite ongoing disputes

Kuki-Zo - Meitei couple

Kuki-Zo and Meitei manage Ema, an orphanage foundation, aspiring for harmony and peace after a year of ethnic conflicts in Manipur involving the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities, which impacted the state and its people.

The existence of an orphanage run by a Kuki-Zo and Meitei couple, caring for children from both communities, stands as a testament to the once-prevailing harmony, fostering hope in the community of Manipur.

Mr. Donjalal Haokip of Kuki-Zo and Mrs. Rebati Dev of Meitei, who have no biological children of their own, operate the Ema Foundation home in Keithelmanbi, a sensitive zone between the Meitei control area, Imphal Valley, and the Kuiki-Zo control area, Kangpokpi District.

The couple, who have been managing the orphanage since 2015, cares for 17 children from diverse backgrounds, including Meiteis, Kuki-Zo, Nagas, and Nepalis. The children attend a nearby school operated by the Assam Rifles.

"Fostering 17 children in this tense state is not an easy task." But love is the only counter to violence and the way to peace," 52-year-old Haokip said, speaking from his home in the foothills of West Imphal and Kangpokpi District.

The couple has a vivid recollection of the events that began on May 3, 2023, when ethnic conflicts led to a series of horrifying and harrowing incidents, including the killing of individuals and the burning of churches and homes over the subsequent days.

"We believed we would control and contain the situation the next day when the violence erupted on May 3 last year at 3:00 PM," said Haokip.

However, it didn’t stop; instead, it worsened. "I seek assistance from nearby Assam rifles," Haokip of Kuki-Zo said. "They assured us of their support and made security deployments outside the orphanage."

He added, "As the violence continued for months, life was tough and terrible, and the couple was endlessly afraid of what might happen to them and the children, as they were a Meitei-Kuki-Zo couple and then had children from both communities."

The families feared that they were very easy to target. They decided to stay, and despite the challenges and hardships they faced, they managed to survive. He narrated. According to the couple, there are no signs in the state yet that the Kuki and Meiteis can coexist peacefully like before.

Haokip and Rebati hope for the triumph of reason, wishing that people will seek peace instead of conflict.

The couple tied the knot in 2012, and at home, their children affectionately refer to them as 'mummy' and 'papa'. Their oldest child is in Class 10, and the youngest is four years old.

‘’When my mother died in 2008, my wife and I were planning to erect a tombstone," Haokip said.

However, we reconsidered that instead of investing in a stone structure, we could establish this and call it EMA, which in the Manipuri dialect means 'mother,' stated Haokip, the founder of EMA Orphanage.


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