Of July 11 and July 15 fifteen years back:
Manorama and nude protest
Tough to say if such a time will come when the State Government may be able to join hands with various civil society organisations and human rights organisations to observe July 15 as was observed as Anti-Repression Day this year in memory of the historic nude protest in front of Kangla way back on July 15, 2004. Fifteen years have passed since the historic day when womenfolk from different parts of the State came together and staged the nude protest in front of Kangla after the bullet riddled and ravaged body of Thangjam Manorama was discovered after she was picked up by Assam Rifles personnel in the dead of the night the previous day. This was in 2004, and there are still a number of journalists who witnessed the historic day and are still active in journalism to this day. So savage was the manner in which Manorama was done to death that another savage killing of a prominent personality of a non-descript village on the same day was reduced to a footnote. Killed on July 11, 2004 and this led to the historic nude protest in front of Kangla on July 15 and at that point of time it was palpable that India was lost to the people of Manipur. The dastardly killing of Th Manorama and the nude protest triggered a series of intense protest, giving a renewed thrust to the demand that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act be withdrawn from Manipur. It was during these days of protest that Pebam Chittaranjan self immolated demanding that the draconian Army Act be withdrawn from Manipur. Manipur or Imphal to be more specific suddenly became the destination of numerous journalists from across the country and the death of Th Manorama and the nude protest that followed again catapulted the draconian Army Act to the world’s centre stage.
If journalists from different parts of the country landed in Imphal to cover the series of agitations that followed, it took the then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh to fly down here and take stock of the situation. In the death of Manorama and the nude protest that followed, Kangla was handed back to the people of Manipur and the Assam Rifles which then occupied the sacred and historic place of Manipur for decades had to move out. In as much as the nude protest was historic, the handing back of Kangla to the people was historic too. The icing on the top of handing Kangla back to the people was the institution of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to look into the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and give its recommendation whether the Act should continue or not. After gathering information and interacting with the people, the Committee finally submitted its recommendation to the Government, but that was the last heard of the Committee. Perhaps bowing to the pressure from the Army, the Government of India preferred to sleep over the recommendations of the Committee. This was in New Delhi, but back home the then Chief Minister O Ibobi, realising the pulse beat of the people, withdrew the Disturbed Area tag from the municipality areas of Imphal rendering AFSPA redundant. To really understand the significance of Manorama and the nude protest one will need to go back 15 years to 2004.