B’nei Menashe Man, Denied Aliyah with family, found dead on street
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
(November 12) Lunsat Shmida Chongloi, 30, a member of Churachandpur’s B’nei Menashe community, was found dead on a street of the city on Friday, November 5. The cause of death was unclear. Whereas B’nei Menashe social media in Manipur speculated that it might have been a drug overdose, Lunsat’s father, Na’aman Chongloi, a resident of the northern Israeli city of Safed, told our newspaper that it was a stroke due to high blood pressure.
“Lunsat was a substance abuser in the past,” we were told by Na’aman, who immigrated to Israel with his wife and two younger children in 2014. “He had been in a chronic state of depression ever since having been parted from his family by Shavei Israel when it refused to let him join our Aliyah. The reason for the refusal was petty and mean. When Shavei announced that it was holding interviews for the 2014 group of olim, Lunsat, who had been working far away in Bangalore, gave up his job and hurried home to Churachandput to sit for them.
“Unfortunately,” Na’aman continued,” when Lunsat reached Assam, from which he planned to continue to Manipur, ethnic riots broke out and paralyzed transportation. He was delayed, and by the time he reached Churachandpur, the interviews, which the rest of our family passed successfully, were over. We begged Tsvi Khaute, Shavei Israel’s coordinator, to make an exception for Lunsat, since he missed his interview through no fault of his own, but Khaute refused. He was adamant. The one ray of home he could offer us, he said, was to include Lunsat in the next round of interviews, which would take place as soon as a new Aliyah group was formed. We left for Israel without him, trusting that he soon would follow us.”
And yet when such a group was formed a year later, in 2015, Lunsat was not invited to be interviewed for it as promised. “That broke his spirits,” Na’aman said. “We’re a close family and he missed us terribly. On top of that, he couldn’t find a decent job in Churachandpur, where employment opportunities are limited. He was out of work, and I had to send him hard-earned money from Israel to support him. To escape his depression, he turned to drink, and from there he went on to drugs.”
According to Na’aman, however, the immediate cause of his son’s death was neither alcohol nor drugs. “Lunsat had a change of heart half a year ago,” Na’man said. “He told us then that he had had enough. He was turning 30, he said, and wanted to mend his ways and find a B’nei Menashe wife to start a family with. We were very happy to hear that, and we managed to find him a suitable match with a B’nei Menashe girl whose family originally came from Nagaland, as did ours. They were married three months ago.”
Since his marriage, Na’aman said, Lunsat was a changed person. “He stopped the drugs and alcohol and was clean. He also returned to a full observance of Judaism, donning tefillin every morning and never missing a single one of the three daily prayer services. But by then his health had been ruined by his years of unhealthy living and he was suffering from high blood pressure.
“It was the blood pressure that led to the stroke. But that was only what killed him medically speaking. If this would have happened. He would have been alive and healthy instead of dead on a Churachandpur street. For that, we have Shavei Israel to thank.”
The family rises from its shiva in Safed today, November 12.