Avenging Angel: A child's traumatic persona

Khamenlok martyr’s six-year-old son vows to avenge father’s death

ByGeetanjali Heigrujam

Updated 29 Feb 2024, 3:10 am


Six-year-old Thouna (name changed), who lost his father in an attack by Kuki militants at Khamenlok acts a mother figure to his grief-stricken family and vows to avenge his father’s death.

In a video supposedly released by Kuki militants, father of Thouna, was seen bearing a smile, meaningful yet painful before he was killed. While, sounds of continuous firing and bombings could be heard from behind him. His pain-wrenched face has become one of the most powerful images of the Manipur conflict.

There was a sorrowful atmosphere in an area at Imphal east district, at the house of the late martyr when the Imphal Free Press (IFP) visited. His grandmother, mother, wife and brother gave a warm welcome, despite the grief-stricken faces. Young Thouna was huddling near his grandmother and uncle as this reporter sat and talked, listening intently to the conversation.

He appeared to be shy and reluctant. Nevertheless, when asked to sketch a favourite drawing of his, he happily opened the colour pencil set and drew a house using bright colours. Besides his mother and late father, he is closest with his grandmother and uncle. Thouna studies UKG at a school located near his residence.

When the tragic incident befell his family, the six-year-old, unlike children of his age, became a caring mother figure to his devastated family with his adult-like mannerisms, often at times consoling them not to shed tears, hiding his father’s photos and cutting conversations short when his father’s name was mentioned.

“My child, who is nearing almost six-year-now acts mature for his age, unlike any child. I don’t quite know what is going on in his mind. He has deleted every photo of his father from the phone, worrying it might make us cry if we look at the photos,” Thouna’s mother said.

Thouna’s grandmother also supplemented saying that her young grandson hid his father’s Identity card inside a jumbo box, which she came across recently.


His Uncle said that his nephew won’t go visit his father’s grave till date. “He says he will avenge his father’s death,” he told, adding that Thouna also forbade him from going to the war zone. 

Class Teacher of Thouna told IFP of his behavioural changes, stating he often appears disconnected and disinterested, forgetting to answer when his name was called. His grades also dropped from 9th to 19th position after his father’s passing. Despite the harsh circumstances, Thouna has never acted aggressively among his friends in school or at home.

The trauma inflicted by the incident has effectuated Thouna’s behavioural changes, and behind his independent persona is a kid who lost his childhood. Being in dire straits at such a tender age, he has somehow cultivated grit, determination and resilience and aims to be a Police Officer when he grows up.

Also speaking to IFP, Psychiatrist, PDF Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Manipur State Health Services, Dr Jina Heigrujam, commented saying grief is a natural response to loss and asserted that a naive understanding of death begins as early as four years. More consolidated idea on death, in terms of irreversible, universality etc is acquired by age five-seven years, she added.

Jina also highlighted common presentation in primary age in terms of death of a near and dear ones including, strong reaction mixed with as though nothing has happened, inhibiting feelings of sadness and fear, taking up the role of caregiver to parents or siblings etc,

Oftentimes, ‘parentification’ of children affected by such a loss, may not necessarily be a burden. Even if they are suffering, sometimes the sense of purpose and mission is simultaneously protective. The question lies in ‘how long’. In the long run, these parentified children are often at risk of low self-esteem, difficulty in relationships, anxiety etc.

Thouna’s father was killed in a cold-blooded attack by Kuki militants at Khamenlok area in Kangpokpi district. The attack was among the wave of violence that swept in the state since May 3, 2023.

“I’m haunted by constant grief, sorrow and despair as days go by. I don’t know which words to use what I feel. In my mind, I feel like my husband is still alive, playing with his child every time I look at his photos,” Thouna’s mother was quoted as saying with tears spilling from her eyes.


“I recall looking at the lifeless body of my husband when they picked up his body to be taken to the morgue, checking over and over if it was really him”, she continued.

His wife spoke of her regret at the brevity of her final phone call with his husband just hours before he was killed. His husband called him around 9 pm giving updates, saying he is alright. The family also received a call from him around 10 pm, asking them to come and take him home. After which, they went to Khamenlok, however upon reaching there they were unable to contact him and his phone was unreachable. 

In the wee hours around 3 am, his wife also received a phone call from her husband’s number. She picked up thinking it was her husband, however the person on the other line turned out to be a Kuki Militant. They taunted and mocked her, saying they had killed her husband.

“Looking back at it now, it’s incredibly hard. We are not able to process his death and are stuck in a state of bereavement,” Thouna’s grandmother said in a trembling voice. She pointed at a two-wheeler parked in their courtyard and said that it was his son’s.

She woefully said “Manipur will turn into a graveyard if the prevailing violence continues. Many families have faced the same fate as my family. Though immensely proud of my son’s valiant sacrifice, I hope his death will not be in vain.” She pinned her hopes to the State government to end the conflict.

Thouna’s father was a private employee and the lone bread earner of the family. Despite the little income he earned, he strived to make his family live in contentment. The family depended on his earnings and his late father’s pension salary. But after his demise, it is now close to impossible for the surviving family members to make ends meet.

Tens of thousands of innocents have been displaced and many have been killed in the conflict which erupted on May 3 and is entering 10 months with no end in sight. Ever since the unprecedented hostilities in the state, the people have been pleading for the carnage to stop, urging the authorities concerned for their intervention before the state is turned into dust and memory permanently.


First published:


kangpokpiarsonmanipur violencekhamenlokkhopibung villagemaru yaodre

Geetanjali Heigrujam

Geetanjali Heigrujam

Imphal Free Press Sub-Editor, Imphal, Manipur


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