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Manipuri women lead from the front
Hindu-dominated Manipuri population along with Muslims live a difficult life with the Nagas on the hills surrounding the valley and blocking supplies. Prices have skyrocketed and women do not feel safe.

THE MOST renowned woman leader who led a cavalry against the British officers and Indian soldiers of the East Indian Company was Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi. Her name is even now a household word throughout India.

Likewise, Rani Chenamma of Kittur had fought against British occupation and made a name for her chivalry. However, the Manipuri women steal the thunder in their spirited opposition to what they think is oppression and denial of justice. These women rose like an organised force to fight against the oppressive rule of the then Maharajah in 1939 when the World War II had just begun. Their indomitable spirit makes them fight like a wounded tigress and maul whosoever opposes them.

Injured they are, and oppression in different forms has turned them into fighters who never say die. I admire them and I salute them. The men folk who run the administration of the state of Manipur are a mixed lot from Manipur and other parts of India. The non-Manipur administrators have not been able to fathom the depth of Manipuri women's feelings and their "hurt psyche". I shall draw on my experiences of visiting the area off and on as an officer of the Indian Army.

It was a refreshingly strange sight in the market to see Manipuri women run their shops, be it vegetable or a cereal shop. They are in the forefront in every walk of life. Naturally, they get exposed to hazards of life and fall prey to lust of men folks from outside.

Manipuri women have been protesting against such sexual assaults and also against kidnapping of their womenfolk. Once a woman named Manorama was found assaulted and killed. Her body was riddled with bullets. Who raped her, who killed her? No one knows about it so far.

PROTEST FAST

Again it’s a woman named Irom Sharmila who has been demanding the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur for a decade through her 11-year-old fast. She wants the military oppression to end, especially oppression that has been legalised. The ire of women of Manipur is against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which they feel provides protection to soldiers even for their illegal acts and omissions. Sharmila went on a protest fast against that law a decade ago. Of course, it has been a love’s labour lost.

Manipur valley is inhabited by Meiteis who are Hindus. They observe Hindu religious activities with great fervour. Krishna Janmashtami is the main festival and Manipuri men and women and children celebrate it with great fervour. Among the social festivals Holi is celebrated with enthusiasm and the entire population emulates the Braj Holi from the land of Lord Krishna. When Manipuri men and women perform their dances during the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi, they win the admiration of the entire country.

It is time the citizens of the rest of India realise that Meiteis of Manipur are surviving against heavy odds. They live in the valley that is surrounded by the Nagas who are Christians and block the supply lines of Manipuri people. Consequently the cost of cooking gas and petroleum products has gone up manifold. It is just unbearable to the common man.

It is the constitutional duty of Government of India to keep the supply of essential commodities flowing freely into the Manipur valley. But who cares? Manipuri women may hold a peaceful march or even parade naked before the Security Forces taunting them” Come and Rape us” but it will not awaken the conscience of corrupt government whose ministers are, by and large, busy in  stashing black money in foreign banks.

Isn’t it the duty of citizens of India from other states to come to the rescue of their compatriots in Manipur? Let us write and speak about their hardships till it awakens those who matter. 

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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