Manipur the land of unique Shirui Lily, Sangai deer, enchanting flowers, rich bio-diversity, nature in all its pristine beauty, with its numerous tribes, cultures, languages and dialects fascinated me, a newcomer to North East India. I found the people deeply religious, hardworking, hospitable, generous and friendly.
We were in the peak of the first quarterly examination, children were trying to put their best effort to score good marks and teachers scurrying to complete the corrections, so that we all could take two weeks off for summer vacation. We never anticipated that something was brewing up to halt all our plans on that day.
The month of May being the Marian month, we sisters gathered in the campus chapel along with the boarding girls and boys for the rosary on the eve of 3rd May. The absence of Jesuit fathers and brothers were something conspicuous during the rosary, which was unusual. We were almost at the end of the rosary, a muffled voice from behind, “Please come out, please come out,” made everyone to rush back to their respective boarding.
We immediately closed the Chapel and came out and witnessed a crowd in front of the main gate of the school. Unaware of what was happening there, we too returned to the convent and found that in the girls’ boarding there was pitch darkness and absolute silence. We, too, were advised to turn off the lights and shut the doors and windows. By then we were sure that it was a recurrence of what had happened in 1992-1993. This supposition was confirmed when we learnt that there was an ethnic clash in the nearby district between Kukis (belong to Kuki tribe, who are mostly Christians and stay largely in the hills) and the Meeteis/Meiteis(they live in the valley and the foothills and are worshippers of Sanamahi, a local deity).
When the ripples of what had happened in the neighbouring district reached the various parts of the State, the hell broke out. We learnt later that the part of this mayhem was gathering of the people near the gate, wanting to burn down our campus chapel after breaking open the gate, which was locked from inside. Their attempt was strongly opposed by the locals, parents, teachers, students, neighbours and the alumnae. The love, the respect and the regard for their school, for some alumnae was stronger than the hatred and the anger they felt on that day. In front of the tears and the request of the children, not to attack their school and chapel, humanity succeeded in safe guarding us.
We realised what a witnessing impact we had that day on local people through our education ministry in a place called Moirang. The whole night they kept guard of the chapel and campus, while assuring us not to be scared. We were informed late in the evening that there was a blocked on the way and the Jesuit fathers who had been to a village for house blessings along with all the scholastics, who had come for their holiday ministry were attacked, beaten and the vehicle they were travelling was set on fire by the mob. Our parents, teachers and the alumnae came to their rescue and the fathers returned to the campus the following morning, having spent the night in the police station.
We owe our gratitude to parents, teachers, students and the alumnae who were like good Samaritans, when sanity was at risk on that day. The uncertainty continues, we see smoke billowing up now and then, gun shots being heard near and far intermittently. Amidst all these we continue to experience love, affection, concern, generosity and feel accepted and protected by the people of Moirang. Our neighbourhood keeps reaching out to us, to make sure that we are safe. We have sufficient things to pass through these difficult times. I am sure together we will sail through this storm because in His Word we rely on, “He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Ps 91:4
Sr. Shainy Rose Kannookadan, Siliguri Province