Manipur violence: Cheers, tears of joy as Nagaland residents return home
Evacuees returned home to Nagaland.

Kohima: After days of anxiety and sleepless nights following the ethnic clashes that broke out in neighbouring Manipur, Nagaland residents, who were stranded in the violence-hit state, returned to their homeland amid cheers and tears of joy. 

The first batch of 676 persons was evacuated from state capital Imphal early on Sunday morning. Young medical students, daily wage earners, and families affected by the clashes were brought back in 22 buses that were arranged by the state government to evacuate the stranded people.

At the Inspector General of Assam Rifles (IGAR) North headquarters in Kohima, parents of stranded students began to arrive before noon, eagerly waiting for the safe return of their children. 

The father of a medical student at Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Dr Kedozeto Punyü expressed a sigh of relief as his daughter was returning home to their family. “As parents, we were really worried. Our first concern was the safety of our children and our people stranded there. We heard about the deaths of people, destruction of homes, churches and injuries to many people,” he told EastMojo.

The parents of stranded students, he said, approached the state government to intervene and facilitate the safe passage of the stranded people. He informed that initially calls made through the helpline numbers were not answered, but later the students at RIMS were able to make contact with the government, who later took the matter seriously. “We were very concerned. Our children also kept sharing their concerns. So, it is a great relief that they are on their way now,” the medical student said.

Like him, Dr. Atha Vizol, who is the father of a female pediatrician, had been waiting for his daughter’s return. Asked about how he feels at that moment, he said, “I feel great. We were kept in suspense for the past few days. I also questioned why there was a delay in the evacuation process. But I am glad that our children and our stranded people there are all returning today.”

As buses carrying stranded people reached IGAR (N) there was a huge sigh of relief among people who gathered there to receive them. Medical students dressed in their lab coats were seen waving to people outside as the buses neared the venue where a welcome reception was hosted by the Assam Rifles. There were tears of joy when the families were reunited and an emotional scene unfolded as stranded persons deboarded the buses and stepped foot in their homeland. 

Some mothers were seen comforting each other as they met their children. Fighting back tears, an emotional mother recalled the horror of the past few days when she learnt about the distress of her child. “We had sleepless nights. Due to the tension, we could not even eat. Whenever I spoke to my child, I would learn about the violence, blasts, deaths and vandalization of churches. Prayer was our only comfort,” she told EastMojo. The mother expressed her gratitude to the Almighty and to the state government for safely bringing home their children. 

Sharing her experience, a nursing student from RIMS Neivotuno Natalia said, “When we reached the border and saw people welcoming us back and providing us food, it was so heartwarming. I am so thankful to all who helped us make this journey possible.”

Recounting the last few days of her stay at her hostel, she said “Our dean assured us that all will be fine so we thought that situation would improve but as time passed by, the situation worsened. We would hear bombardings, tear gases outside our campus. Although we were safe inside the campus, when we heard those noises, we were left in fear and stress.” 

The fourth-year nursing student, who was among hundreds of medical students evacuated from Imphal, hoped that the situation in Manipur will become normal as she longs to return and complete her academics. 

President of the Nagaland Medicos Union Imphal, Dr Gihuto Assumi, recalled the horrific sight of a church being burnt to ashes. “We were stuck inside the campus. But we saw our church being burnt in front of us, so we were scared. We contacted the government thankfully, we are safely back safe to Nagaland. We feel relieved and safe,” he said. 

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Intern doctor at RIMS, Beka Achumi, who was stranded at Bishnupur, also shared his joy of returning to his home state. “I feel happy and relieved,” the young MBBS student said. 

While 676 persons were evacuated on Sunday, deputy chief minister Y Patton informed that 650 more persons will be evacuated on Monday as 14 buses were deployed. Patton informed that evacuation would continue till all stranded residents of Nagaland are rescued. 

Also Read | Refugee haven: 600 Manipur tribals flee to Mizoram

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