Family Members Of Slain Soldiers Chasing A Dream Of Joining Army In Insurgency-Hit Manipur

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New Delhi: Family members of several slain soldiers are still tethered to the force and are chasing a dream of one day joining the Indian Army in the insurgency-hit Manipur, where nearly 950 security men have been killed in action over the last three decades.

Hatkhochin Haokip was widowed in 2009, when her husband Havildar Thanjalet Haokip of 11 Assam Rifles was killed in a fight with insurgents. His bravery was recognised the same year with India’s third-highest peacetime gallantry award, the Shaurya Chakra.

Almost a decade later, Hatkhochin says the purpose of her life is to send her two boys to the Khadakwasla-based National Defence Academy (NDA), where cadets are groomed to become officers.

“My boys are in the 12th and 6th standards at the Sainik School in Imphal. I want them to follow in their father’s footsteps. In fact, I want them to go a step ahead. Their father was a jawan, and they should aspire to be officers,” said Hatkhochin, who lives in Churachandpur.

Grief, pride and a shared dream unite such military families in a state where extortion has become a way of life and where even Hindi films have not been screened for almost two decades because of a ban imposed by local insurgent groups.

Take the case of Neithinkim, in her twenties, who lost her husband Rifleman L Haokip three years ago. The soldier from 26 Assam Rifles was killed in an ambush by Naga insurgents in eastern Nagaland’s Tuensang district. She now plans to join Assam Rifles, a force that allows women in the non-officer cadre.

“Life is hard without him. My six-year-old son and I often talk about happier times. I have made up my mind to join Assam Rifles. I like army life, and who knows, one day our son may also choose army as a career,” Neithinkim said.

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