| Photo Essay | January 2024 | MPV Features |

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above –

Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

All You Who Sleep Tonight, Vikram Seth

With the 2021 military coup in Myanmar leading to armed resistance movements, thousands of people including former parliamentarians have taken shelter in Mizoram. Refugee camps have been set up in different parts of Mizoram State, and aid is being provided to these Camps through Church based organisations and other NGOs.

This photo essay aims to give a glimpse of life inside these refugee camps where residents strive to retain some semblance of a normal life. With the recent outbreak of fresh clashes between the Myanmar army and pro-democracy forces, peace seems like a distant dream, and the refugees may have to stay in these camps for the foreseeable future. 

The photos were taken in Southern Mizoram with the consent of all subjects. 

Aerial view of the Refugee Camp.

Rows of residential houses inside the Camp. The houses are constructed with thatched bamboos gathered from the nearby forests. They are elevated on stilts to protect them during rainy season. Silpaulin (a widely used blue tarpaulin) is used as roofing.

Students walk in front of the main Church, the Matu Chin Refugee Christian Fellowship that doubles up as a school for primary and middle grade students. Lalpa Inah I Kal Ang U (Let us Go To The House of The Lord) : Psalm 122 is displayed at the entrance.

Class ongoing inside the Church where students sit on these makeshift wooden chairs. The purple curtains serve as walls that separate the different grades.

Grammar lessons for middle grade students.

Middle school girls playing ‘Rubber Zuan’ a traditional game played with rubber bands strung together to make a stretchy rope.

The High School is on a hillock, separate from the rest of the township, and even has a building of its own.

High School students

A few metres away from the high school is this under construction prayer hall.

Vegetable and maize grown on the patch next to the High School

Roselle is a food staple and is thus widely grown in these camps. Not in pic – Elephant foot yam which they hope will fetch a high price in the markets.

Firewood stacks, laundry, the mountains, cute kids etc

Pu Ramengmawia gazes towards the direction of his Church – Pathian Kohhran, one of two denominations within the Camp. He explains to us that his Church has much fewer members than the much bigger Matu Chin Refugee Fellowship Church.

Such brave little gardens with their makeshift flower pots, lush blooms and newly propagated stems. Because we plant moms need to have our gardens wherever life decides to take us.

More brave little gardens!

Most of the residents here wear the traditional thanaka on their faces, irrespective of age or gender. The boys wear the traditional Lyongi as uniform.
The main water reservoir in the Camp

And to sign off, more brave little gardens that had us swooning…


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