American civil rights champion and Nobel Peace prize winner Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “No person has the right to rain on your dreams”, motivating many. The unceasing ethnic conflict in Manipur, apart from claiming many lives and leaving a trail of destruction, has also exhausted the dreams of a large number of people.
Challenging the heat of the conflict broken out on May 3, many have stood strong to continue to fulfill their dreams. Among them are the violence-affected MBBS students of the newly-established state-run Churachandpur Medical College (CMC) located at the district headquarters of Chin-Kuki-Zo-dominated Churachandpur, also one of the strife’s hotbeds.
The strife had forced all CMC students and staff, except for those belonging to Kuki-Zo communities, to flee to Imphal five days after the violence unfolded.
After the state government and the college management made hectic arrangements, now the college resumed its regular classes from three locations viz. state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) Complex in Imphal East district; State Academy of Training (SAT) at Imphal West’s Takyelpat; and its original location in Churachandpur.
CMC began its first academic session on November 15, 2022 with its intake capacity of 100 MBBS seats. Another 100 students, who had been selected for the current year, have also started their classes from September 1 at SAT Complex, Takyelpat.
After about two months since the conflict broke out, 92 First batch-1st year MBBS students of the college resumed their classes from July 19 on the premises of BDS College within JNIMS campus, while six students of the same batch belonging to Chin-Kuki-Zo communities are pursuing their studies at their original campus in Churachandpur with certain arrangements of teachers and other staff, said Dr (Professor) S Iboyaima Singh, Director of the college.
Classes for 92 newly selected second batch MBBS students began from September 1 at the SAT Takyel complex, a temporary study centre provided by the state government, while 8 Kuki-Zo students of the same batch are in CMC Churachandpur, he added.
“Despite the impact of the crisis, the college has been functioning smoothly at all three locations - JNIMS, SAT Takyel and CMC -with the help of the government,” Dr Iboyaima Singh said.
While the girl students of both batches from outside Manipur and far-flung districts of the state are staying at JNIMS hostel, all boy students from the same places are staying on rent and private hostels near JNIMS, stated Dr Guddi Laishram, Assistant Professor (Community Medicine Department) of the college.
The first-batch MBBS student will appear for their pre-university test under Manipur University scheduled to begin on October 9 and the final exam which will come next month.
Regarding the crisis that affected the college severely, Guddi said “It is a huge tragedy because from the moment I got appointed in the college, the struggle and efforts that I had put into to develop the institution seem wasted. I could not even dream once that we would get to experience a day like this day.”
“All is not lost as the government and college management have worked hard enough to resume classes to ensure that the academic career of the students is not lost. Now the classes are on smoothly, even though from three different places,” the lady professor added.
Despite the hard efforts extended to run the college, its male students coming from outside Manipur and far-flung districts of the state are facing big problems in terms of conveyance and accommodation.
First batch student, Sagar from Uttar Pradesh, while narrating his plights, said “I’m staying on rent outside JNIMS complex. I’m paying Rs 5,000 per month excluding electricity charge. Being a non-local living on rent is very difficult for me, so I request the government to arrange a hostel for us.”
“We have spent a huge amount of money which should not have been expended had the conflict not taken place in Manipur,” he added.
A second batch student from Ukhrul district, Khayeingam Varu said, “Our classes began from September 1 at Takyel but not to the optimum level because the campus is not ours.”
“Since we don’t have our own hostel, I stay on rent paying Rs 8,000 per month. As the Takyel complex is quite far from my rented place at Sangakpham, I spend Rs 100 for auto rickshaw fare and also walk 500 meters to and fro to attend class,” lamented Varu.
“During curfew and bandhs, we cannot go to college. This is a big loss of our academic career,” he rued.
“Though classes are going on, practical is necessary but we haven’t done any practical for bio-chemistry, anatomy and physiology, so we are quite lacking behind.”, he continued.
About the ongoing conflict, he said, “We pray for restoration of peace and normalcy. Everyone is suffering and nobody from each side is benefiting anything from this conflict.”
Poonam Gothwal, first batch student from Rajasthan, who stays in JNIMS hostel said “My parents, family members were worried about me during the crisis.”
“On May 3 and the subsequent days in Churachandpur, we heard firing sounds of tear gas shells and guns. Arson also happened close to our hostel. We have come out from the incidents by God’s grace. We have not lost our academic year. Let there be an everlasting peace in Manipur,” she said.
Sharing his disturbing experience in Churachandpur, Sagar said, “On May 3, many things happened there. I was petrified and my Meitei friends were scared, I didn’t know anything about it.”
“On the night of May 4, we were rescued and till 8th, we stayed at Churachandpur DC complex under Assam Rifles’ vigil. We arrived in Imphal and stayed at JNIMS hostel with my friends. The state government booked tickets for us and I left Manipur and came back to join class from 19th July.”
Saveine Kh, a first batch Naga student from Manipur’s Senapati district said, “Any place where the ambience is good enough for us to study, that will be very happy for us.”
Amid the woes, CMC had on September 21 observed the “International Day of Peace 2023” at the auditorium of JNIMS where its first batch students belted out two iconic songs- Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” and Mantisyahu’s “One Day”.
They also held posters reading “Unite people and create peace”, “Peace today, peace tomorrow, peace will”, “War is costly, peace is priceless” etc.