No, woman, no cry

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by ppgj, Nov 7, 2009.

  1. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    No, woman, no cry

    Oinam Sunil 7 November 2009, 10:59am IST

    Something extraordinary happened in Manipur on July 15, 2004. A bunch of feisty old women, angry at the alleged murder and rape of 30-year-old
    Manorama Devi at the hands of the armed police, headed straight to the Kangla Fort, which then housed the Assam Rifles, and stripped themselves bare.

    As the nation, which had till then shut its eyes to the deadly implosion in this small northeast state bordering Myanmar, was startled into awakening by shame and disbelief - images of 12 naked "brave mothers" screaming from every newspaper and TV channel - prime minister Manmohan Singh was forced to constitute a committee to review the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law every Manipuri swears has been scandalously misused by the administration.

    During his Imphal visit in November that year, the PM met the women and consoled them saying he will give back to Manipur the historic Kangla Fort, which for 113 years had symbolised state excess and repression, first by the British and then by the Assam Rifles. After soldiers of the berated paramilitary force hurriedly vacated the sprawling enclosure, the gift was made to an agonised people on November 20.

    Manipur's iconic women protesters had made a telling point yet again, defeating forces mightier than them for the umpteenth time in a struggle for human rights that started more than 100 years ago when they fought the British in 1904 to stop them from compelling local men into forced labour. Nearly 5,000 women had agitated against this and forced the administration to reverse its order. Since then, women here have involved themselves in war at crucial junctures in the state's troubled history whenever they found their men paralysed by brutal regimes.

    Another major protest called Nupi Lan (women's uprising) was recorded in 1939. Women launched a violent battle against the oppressive policies of the then maharaja of Manipur, Churachand Singh, and his British agent. The women campaigned hard to abolish the economic policies that permitted rice to be exported out of the kingdom at the cost of its own people's access to food. The women, who controlled the food market, surrounded the State Durbar Office and faced the Assam Rifles, which they are fighting even today. For months, the women who ran the main Khwairamband bazaar in Imphal, refused to operate and ended the boycott only when it appeared that the Japanese, who were already in Myanmar, would enter Imphal. To this day, women control Khwairamband, which is supposed to be the biggest women's market in Southeast Asia.

    Circumstances have now forced women to challenge the system. But history and culture have prepared them for their fight. Though Manipuri society is primarily patriarchal, women play an important role as well. The indigenous Sanamahi religion, which Manipuris follow along with Vaishnavism, has both a priest and a priestess, a rare phenomenon. Moreover, in the olden days, the kingdom of Manipur was either constantly at war with Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) or busy battling petulant hill tribes. As the king used men to build his army, taking them on armed expeditions that lasted months, it was left to the women to fill the gaps in society.

    This continued after the British conquered Manipur , the country attained independence, and after Manipur merged with India in 1949. As insurgency hit the Imphal valley in the late seventies, the men began disappearing again - just like the time when they had silently followed their kings.

    Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on an indefinite fast for nine years as she calls for an end to AFSPA, is a shining example of the indomitable spirit of Manipuri women and their resolve to establish a just, peaceful society. Now called "queen of the prison" , she says she will go on as long as her flesh and bones allow her. "I have a dream - a dream that the international community will listen to our voice against human rights abuses in our land," she told TOI-Crest in Imphal a few months ago as she was being produced in court. The 41-year-old , who began her protest after jawans of the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 civilians at Malom, in Imphal West, on November 2, 2000, knows that New Delhi has done nothing about the Justice (retd) B P Jeevan Reddy Committee report that recommended the repeal of AFSPA. She also understands that the Manipur government has quietly rejected her demand. But these "betrayals" have not shaken her. She is determined to continue her fast from inside the security ward of Imphal's J N Hospital.

    Sharmila, though, is fortunate to survive. Manorama Devi, picked up by the Assam Rifles on July 10, 2004 for being a suspected member of a banned militant outfit, was found raped and murdered the next morning. Her bullet-riddled body had been flung not far from her house in Ngariyan Hills. It was this that prompted the Meira Paibis (women torchbearers) to do the unprecedented nude demonstration, holding banners with 'Indian Army rape us' written on them.

    One of the protesters, 80-year-old Thokchom Ramani, remembers that day clearly: "We knew it was an extreme step for a woman. But when we saw young Manorama violated and murdered despite Assam Rifles issuing her family an arrest memo, we realised that the Act would always be misused. It was raw anger." She also remembers telling her friends that she wanted to teach soldiers and officers of the regiment a lesson. Of course, she is disheartened that nothing much has changed after the movement against AFSPA began in 1980. "But I won't give up until my death. Someday, someone will have to listen to us, to the pain of Manipur, to the relentless attack on our lives and dignity, to the shame and humiliation we go through when we are raped and kicked, when our husbands and sons go missing."

    Not that the fights these women mount are aimed just at the armed forces and the state and central governments. Women in Manipur have also had to combat the increasing use of drugs and subsequent emergence of HIV/AIDS as one of the biggest killers of their people. In fact, it was only after women "banned" the sale of Indian made foreign liquor that the government of R K Ranbir Singh imposed prohibition in 1991. Till today, Manipur is officially a dry state.

    "There is always something to fight for, to defeat and triumph over,'' says Ramani.

    For the women of Manipur, life will always remain a lot less ordinary.

    No, woman, no cry - India - The Times of India
     
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  3. Elmo

    Elmo Regular Member

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    But who's the 30-year-old who got murdered? Did I miss something there :help:
     
  4. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    manorama devi, 30 yrs old, a manipuri woman was suspected to be having links with terror outfits. she is alleged to have been raped and killed by the army people. there is a case on with the army personnel.

    MANIPUR ?THE NAKED TRUTH :: KanglaOnline ~ Your Gateway

    Manorama Devi had links with terrorists: Army

    but people say she was innocent. that incident led to curfew. people protested strongly and they want the AFSPA to be repealed in the state of manipur.
     
  5. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    These calendar woman(no pun intended)would do better if they can convince their sons and husbands to go back to their fields or factories and start earn proper livelihood and not waste their life and that of their kinsmen fighting the state(which is elected and represented from among them).........If Indian soldiers commit any crime,there are mechanism within the organization to hold them responsible.AFSPA exists for a reason and baring all wont make it go away.

    P.S:Sorry to have said this in the manner,but somethings have to be said the way they are.
     
  6. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    old article but the woman is still on hunger strike. she is force fed!!

    Would Gandhi Win Today?

    by Rita Manchanda

    [​IMG]

    Satyagraha (literally, the quest for truth; Mahatma Gandhi's tool of non-violent political protest) has recaptured the public imagination, sparked off by the film, 'Lage Raho Munnabhai', which argues for Gandhism as the idiom even for our cynical times. But translated into lived political experience, could moral courage stir the conscience of Delhi's power elite?

    Irom Sharmila Chanu - satyagraha's new icon - believes so. For three days (October 4 to 6, 2006), she took not a drop or water or nourishment. Dehydrated, but full of passionate conviction, she lay at Jantar Mantar - that hub of protests in Delhi.

    In November 2000, Sharmila, then 28, resolved to fast unto death to protest against living under State violence in Manipur and to demand a repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA). The security forces had gunned down 10 civilians waiting at a bus-stand in Malom near Imphal on suspicion of being insurgents. It was a routine manifestation of how the armed forces abuse the powers that AFSPA vests in them.

    Threatened by Sharmila's peaceful protest, the State took her into custody. For six long years, she has been force-fed through a nasal drip in a hospital room guarded by policemen. Because she is custody on charges of attempted suicide, Sharmila can only be held up to a year. So, on October 3 every year, she is released and then re-arrested. On October 3 this year, Sharmila escaped to Delhi before she could be rearrested. Here, she took up her fast-unto-death again.
    Sharmila's agency is remarkable. But in the Northeast, she is not alone. Women of various ethnicities in the Northeast have a history of being at the forefront of struggles for peace and justice - acting as shields, negotiating with the security forces and militants for the safety of their communities, mediating inter-factional violence, and emerging as the frontline against human rights violations. In Manipur, among the Meitei community, women still have childhood memories of the Nupi Lan - the women's war against British regulations on the rice trade. As adults, they became active as the Meira Paibis (literally, torchbearers), who patrolled the streets at night, guarding their sons from being picked up at random by the security forces.

    It was one such group of Meira Paibis that on July 15, 2004 staged a nude protest against the killing of Manorama Thangjam, 32, by the Assam Rifles. Alleged to be an 'explosives expert', Manorama was picked up by the Assam Rifles, raped and killed. Anger and desperation at the failure to get justice led 12 women to strip naked holding aloft a banner that read, "Indian Army Rape Us." Asked about rape charges against the security forces, Commander-in-Chief of Eastern Command Lt General Arvind Sharma told the Imphal media, "In a large army like ours, such incidents are likely to occur" but the "wrong side are punished".

    Feminist scholarship has established that rape does not 'occur' in war. Rape is used as an instrument of war. Today, this is duly recognized by the International Criminal Court, Rome Statute. Article 8(2) and Article 7(1) recognize rape as a war crime and as a crime against humanity.

    In counter-insurgency wars, civilians are the direct targets in the strategy to destroy community support. Disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and rape constitutes the language of these wars. And the broad, vague powers under the AFSPA have produced a climate of abuse and misuse. Section 4 enables arrest without warrant and authorizes a non-commissioned officer to shoot to kill on mere suspicion. Section 6 makes it mandatory to seek permission from the Central government before initiating legal proceedings against armed forces personnel.

    Not surprisingly, AFSPA was modeled on a colonial Ordinance to counter the Quit India Movement. Introduced in Assam and Manipur to tackle the insurgent Nagas, AFSPA produced a total militarization of the struggle. Finally, in 1997, the government of India entered a peace process with the dominant Naga militant movement, recognizing that the struggle was political and its resolution too must be political. In Manipur, AFSPA was introduced on September 8, 1980, when only four armed opposition groups were operating. Today, there are more than 30 groups and violence has penetrated every facet of life in Manipur. In 1990, the AFSPA was promulgated in Jammu and Kashmir, leading to not only widespread alienation but also a substantive expansion of militancy.

    Challenged in the courts as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court upheld its validity and recommended a government review. It took the protest campaign galvanized by Manorama's killing to force the government to constitute the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to review AFSPA in the Northeast. The report was submitted in June 2005 but not made public. The Defence Ministry was adamant. They needed AFSPA. According to leaked excerpts, the Review Committee unanimously called for its repeal.

    However, with AFSPA removed from the municipal limits of Imphal, and the political opportunity to forge a common front of Northeast civil society groups squandered, the campaign again lost steam. That is, until Sharmila shifted her protest to Delhi.

    But her tryst with Delhi has failed to impact the corridors of power - not even enough to make public the Review Committee report. Perhaps the Northeast is too peripheral for Delhi to take notice? Or could it be that the din around national security has drowned out the call for respecting human rights? Perhaps the protest of a woman, traditionally lacking in authority, did not register? At any rate, non-violent protest, Gandhigiri-style, has not worked here.

    Sharmila, her life at risk, has been shifted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. The nasal feed has been resumed. Will she become another forgotten Gandhian icon? Or worse still, a martyr?

    October 29, 2006

    (Rita Manchanda is a journalist who has written extensively on human rights and security issues, particularly the role of women in conflict and peace-building.)

    Would Gandhi Win Today? by Rita Manchanda
     
  7. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    she really deserves credit for being the person longest ever on a satyagraha. unfortunately with insurgency in manipur, GOI has a difficult task one way or the other. hopefully with bangladesh, bhutan and may be myanmar too cooperating hope that AFSPA would be history and bring much cheer to the people of manipur.
     
  8. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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  9. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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  10. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

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    Insurgencies in Manipur: politics & ideology

    Insurgencies in Manipur: politics & ideology

    M. S. Prabhakara, January 28, 2010

    [​IMG]
    TROUBLED TIMES: Policeman look at the debris of a bomb at Hatta Munuthong near Commando Complex in Imphal on Monday. Three blasts took place almost simultaneously on the eve of Republic Day celebrations in Manipur. Photo: PTI

    Every time one travels to Manipur, one returns humbled. This has been the case since my first visit in the late 1960s, long before becoming a journalist. Active insurgency was not even on the horizon then though some resentment against ‘India’ was evident. Between 1983 when I joined this paper and mid-1994, I visited the State at least once every year — more than once during some years. In the last eight years I have returned four times. The feeling of inadequacy to confront and understand the complex situation in Manipur, the whys and wherefores of the insurgencies (the plural is advisedly used), the resilience of the ordinary people whose amazing creative energies thrive in the midst of all the pain and violence manifest in every walk of life, has only increased.

    Thirty-eight years ago, on January 21, 1972, Manipur became a full-fledged State of the Indian Union. The status was conferred belatedly and grudgingly, a most underwhelming gift. In the popular perception, this was no big deal. Manipur in its historical imagination was an “independent kingdom” since 1st century AD. Its people had ‘histories’ and ‘memories,’ longer and deeper than those of most other Indian people when India attained independence. The use of the plurals is necessary, for this historical imagination is not commonly and equally cherished by all the peoples of Manipur. While the Meiteis, the majority inhabiting the Imphal Valley, shares these histories and memories, the peoples in the outlying Hills cherish other memories, other histories.

    In reality, Manipur ceased to be an “independent kingdom” in 1891 when, following the killing of some officials — who were part of the British official presence — with the connivance of the Manipur court, Britain took over the Kingdom after a brief war. The Battle of Khongjam, a major battle in the conflict, is even now officially commemorated every year on April 23. Another day connected with the war, August 13, 1891, when two leading participants, Thangal General and Tikendrajit Juvaraj, were hanged in public in the heart of Imphal, is commemorated every year as Patriots’ Day.

    This is only one instance of the appropriation of one kind of historical imagination by the modern State of Manipur whose very legitimacy is challenged by persons and organisations that claim to be the true inheritors of that history and cherish another kind of historical imagination — the insurgencies in the Imphal Valley that seek to restore the sovereign status of Manipur.

    The defeat at the hands of Britain came to be accepted as part of British India’s expansion to secure its eastern frontier in which the independence of Manipur became an inescapable casualty. The fact that Britain did not annex the Kingdom, as was done in the case of Assam in 1826 after defeating Burma that had invaded and ravaged Assam, also helped in the acceptance of the fiction that Manipur remained an independent kingdom, albeit under British protection. The reality was that Manipur was, for all practical purposes, just another native State with its administrative and political control limited to the Valley, with Britain administering the outlying Hill areas inhabited by tribal people. The subordinate status of the “independent kingdom” was further underlined by the presence of a British Resident.

    At the time of Independence, however, some of the resentment that had remained dormant came to the fore, now that a local elite with the potential to intervene more actively was to become the successor authority in Delhi.

    Two developments added to this renewed resentment, while the cherry on the top has been the virtual militarisation of the administration whose defining element is the terrifying Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). First, the circumstances under which the annexation/merger of Manipur into the Indian Union was achieved — or manipulated. These did little credit to any of the participants in that squalid drama. Following the anti-feudal struggle led by the Manipur Mahasabha, among whose leaders was the legendary communist Hijam Irabot Singh, Maharaja Bodhi Singh set up a committee to draft a Constitution in March 1947. The Constitution was adopted in July 1947. Thus when the transfer of power took place in Delhi, Manipur became an independent country under a constitutional monarchy, with a Constitution of its own that provided for universal adult franchise.

    Indeed, the developments between the adoption of that Constitution and the annexation/integration of Manipur into the Indian Union on October 15, 1949 — as part of the process of ‘Integration of Indian States’ — even now rankle in the historical imagination of the people, in particular the Meiteis. The resentment has been a crucial element in the ideology and politics that have animated the insurgencies in the State, though quite different perspectives of sovereignty linked to the Naga national imagination, whose first eloquent articulator was A.Z. Phizo, lie at the root of the Naga insurgency in the Naga-inhabited areas in the Hills.

    There is a sub-text to this anti-feudal struggle that has contributed to the resentment as articulated by the more ‘radical’ of the insurgents. In parts of India, especially in those States where feudalism was most oppressive, the CPI was engaged before and after the transfer of power in militant anti-feudal struggles which in some instances, as in Telangana in Hyderabad state, became armed struggles. The participation of Irabot Singh in the anti-feudal struggle in Manipur which never became an explicit armed struggle, though the authorities were apprehensive over such a possibility, has to be seen against the larger background in which the CPI was a leading player.

    When the CPI-led armed struggle persisted in Telangana even after the transfer of power, it was ruthlessly crushed. Eventually, the CPI abandoned the line and approach adopted by it, followed by significant changes in its leadership to indicate that the party had forsworn its earlier view.

    In Irabot’s case it was never clear if he saw the struggle against feudalism in Manipur as part of a larger ‘armed struggle’ to secure ‘independence’ for Manipur. According to Noorul Huda, veteran communist leader of Assam who was closely involved in the political developments of those days in Manipur, “there was no evidence of Irabot opposing the merger agreement of 15 October 1949.” However, in a strange reconstruction of historical imagination, Irabot is being appropriated as an icon of the separatist armed struggles for Manipur’s independence.

    Two, the formalisation of the ceding of the Kabaw Valley, always viewed as an integral part of Manipur, to Burma, though Burma had been in de facto control of the territory as part of the truce negotiated after the Anglo-Burmese war of 1826. The final humiliation was the ‘gifting away’ of the territory to Burma by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1953, during Prime Minister U Nu’s visit to India.

    The resentment over the formalisation of an arrangement that had been in existence since 1834 — when the territory of the Kabaw Valley was leased to Burma — 120 years later, may seem strange. However, it was natural when viewed in the context of anxieties over the ‘territorial integrity’ of the State, most dramatically demonstrated by the “ June 18, 2001 uprising” in the Valley to protest against the extension of the ceasefire agreement with the NSCN (I-M) to Manipur. This again is an issue that evokes quite different responses among the majority and the minority population of tribal people inhabiting the five ‘outlying’ districts – Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul.

    While the historical imagination as evoked by the Valley-based insurgencies sees Manipur as an independent state, with its present territory intact, and with the Kabaw Valley at some point in the future incorporated into the motherland, the historical imagination and the territorial imperative of the Naga insurgency necessarily involves the disintegration of the present territory of Manipur.

    The totality of these perspectives, involving conflicting constructions of the historical imagination covering the last 60 years, animates the ideology and politics of the Valley-based insurgencies in Manipur, that its people have been “at war with India” since 1949.

    http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article95770.ece
     

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