• Sun. May 26th, 2024


Like every day, the two best friends had their breakfast together but a bit hurriedly. They did not want to miss the right time for a ‘selfie’ with the perfect background of morning sunlight descending on the lofty mountains of Ukhrul.After a few clicks, they called their parents to the spot for a group photograph. Then they followed the jolly crowd of girls and their parents to the venue earmarked for interaction with the organizers.

This was not a routine school or college event but a unique occasion. These people had come from different places of Manipur to encourage their daughters to prepare for competitive exams. Many of them belonging to the two estranged communities of Manipur, but the beauty was that there was not a single instance of anyone trying to argue which community suffered more or who was at fault. They were just glad to see their daughters focusing on their futures. They did not mind their daughters mixing up with the girls of other communities because they knew that at the individual level, there was no acrimony between the people of the two communities. They understood that it is the right of every community to have opportunities for a bright future of their children and that in Manipur the past and the future of all communities are profoundly intertwined.

They realized that it will be naive to think that there could be water tight growth compartments for different communities in the same geographical area for people who had been living together for ages.

Amidst the fraying social fabric of Manipur, where communal tensions have cast a shadow on the pursuit of education and aspirations, the Assam Rifles Centre of Educational Excellence (ARCEE) emerges as a pillar of resilience, unity and unwavering commitment.

Established under the aegis of Assam Rifles, in collaboration with NIEDO, a public charitable trust primarily into provision of value based education for children coming from challenging areas of society and under the Corporate Social Responsibility charter of private Bank, ARCEE represents a convergence of shared values and collective aspirations, transcending barriers and fostering a culture of inclusivity and progress. The primary aim is to prepare the students for Medical Entrance Examinations, but here in Manipur, it is also contributing to fostering a sense of camaraderie and acceptance amongst children of different ethnicities. In fact, the ARCEE complex bubbling with talks of high hopes, hard work and camaraderie is a picture of what Manipur should be – a symbol of peaceful co-existence, harmony and growth. The previous ARCEE NEIDO edition for NEET female aspirants was held at Kangvai in Churachandpur District from August 2022 to Aug 2023 wherein 20 out of 30 girls cleared the NEET written exam. ARCEE currently supports 37 female NEET aspirants including 24 girls from the Naga community, five from Meitei and eight from Kuki Community hailing from locations spread all across Manipur. It must be understood that ARCEE’s impact extends far beyond the confines of academic excellence. Further, the commitment to their future displayed by the girls presently undergoing coaching, through their individual hard work and also a glaring mutual camaraderie through extensive co-study has enabled their academic instructors to give the bold statement that all of them will clear the NEET written exam this year. These girls stay together, eat together, study together and spend their free time together. They pray for peace in the state. They do discuss the situation in the state but do not argue about whose ancestors came first to Manipur or who started the conflict. For them, these things do not matter. For them what matters most is their future which can be made bright by studies.

These girls are a shining example of co-existence. They have put the past behind and have the courage to move on. Surprisingly, this simple fact has not been understood by the intelligentsia and hence, even after many months of the commencement of the clashes, both sides have not come together to sort out the issues. And this is despite the fact that we all have been living together for ages.

Why have we hardened our positions? Why are those calling for a dialogue declared traitors? And why do we require a third party to resolve the differences of two communities cohabiting since ages?

Report: Pratyusha Mukherjee

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