| Mourners in Ukhrul. Pictures by Eastern Projections
Imphal/Ukhrul, Aug. 16: Before she left home last month, Leishichon Shaiza promised her parents and five siblings that she would return home in five years with enough money for the family as well as her own wedding.
She returned much before that. Last evening, in a coffin.
Leishichon was cremated today at her native Luinaotang Khunjao in Ukhrul district with shocked, grieving family members and friends yet to reconcile to the fact that the 23-year-old was no more.
She was stabbed to death by Uzer Patel, who police claim is insane, at the Gateway of India in Mumbai on Saturday evening.
Her friend, Ngahuimi Raleng, was lucky to escape but was grievously injured when she tried to save Leishichon. She is now recuperating in a Mumbai hospital.
The coffin reached the village late on Monday night and was placed in the courtyard of Leishichon’s home. Friends, relatives and villagers spent the whole night praying for Leishichon.
Her father, Lengchan Shaiza, a grade IV employee in the district horticulture office, said Leishichon, fourth of six children, left home on July 15 for Mumbai to look for a job and pursue her studies.
“We are a poor family. She wanted a part-time job to augment the family income and finance her studies. She had come out after an interview in a five-star hotel where her friend was working when she was attacked.”
Ukhrul residents are equally shattered as Leishichon was respected by those younger than her and loved by her elders. “She was a hard-working, bright and religious girl. She taught at Sunday school in church,” said Luithingla, a neighbour.
Local residents in mourning dress lined the Ukhrul road leading to her house, a dilapidated wooden structure. “You promised us you would return. Instead you sent us your lifeless body,” her mother muttered between sobs.
Despite a general strike called by four militant groups of Manipur to boycott Independence Day, the government did not provide any security escort to the four-vehicle convoy that was taking the body to Ukhrul.
A sub-inspector of Maharashtra police and Leishichon’s cousin Augustin Shimray, who is studying music in Pune, accompanied the body, flown in by the Maharashtra government to Imphal airport early yesterday where a large number of family members, relatives and friends turned up.
Despite the strike, friends and relatives in good numbers turned up at the airport with a banner on which was written “Welcome home, Leishichon, we miss you”.
The body was first taken to the Imphal residence of BJP legislator and Leishichon’s relative, Danny Shaiza, where a condolence meeting was held. The Naga community residing in Imphal mourned the death.
The body was taken along the empty streets of Imphal, where only a few vehicles belonging to security forces were plying. The residents of Imphal mostly kept indoors.
Naga student groups have demanded that the Maharashtra government pay compensation to the victim’s family and the injured girl.