Nupi Lan & women empowerment

Those women/mothers who fought valiantly against the oppressive and repressive colonial regime deserve a big salute. Their exploits, achievements, struggle and spirit ought to be commemorated at the highest level.  We are referring to the brave warriors of the Nupi Lan saga. When the men folk were flogged and punished at the slightest aberration from the colonial policies and framework, it was the womenfolk who stood up boldly against the extensive injustice meted out to the people of Manipur under the colonial rule. As descendents of those brave mothers who fought unarmed against the mighty British colonial rulers, it is our moral obligation to pay fitting honour and document the historic Nupi Lans of 1904 and 1939 in full details so that the historic events are not lost in the sands of time. The State as well as a host of civil society organisations have been observing the Nupi Lan anniversary every year on December 12 and this year is no exception. Commemoration of the Nupi Lan anniversary also throws up a pertinent question on the socio-economic and political status of women in the State. This is one area which demands active engagement all the intellectuals, politicians and civil society organisations. It may sound strange but the reality is, women in Manipur are elevated to the high pedestal of being champions of all kinds of socio-political issues and at the same time they are often reduced to wretched, discard-able sub-humans. Male chauvinism and hypocrisy are very much prevalent in our society. Any keen observer would have noticed unfailingly the disgusting admixture of womenfolk leading in the forefront many mass movements whether it be for implementation of Inner Line Permit System or repeal of AFSPA etc, with reports of rape and murder (of women). Rapes and murders have been fast evolving into some sort of a deadly infection which is eating into the vitals of the society although there were little reports of crimes against women during the past few months with the exception of the horrifying incident of December 3. It was on December 3 that an 11-year old girl was raped at Heirok.
When violence has become a way of life in Manipur wherein the weaker are at the receiving end, specially women, and in the light of the ever increasing incidences of violence against women, there is a growing need for active and sustained engagement on the issue in the form of collective people’s movements with the necessary doses of gender readings of the situation as well as the movements. Such an engagement becomes crucial all the more on account of ever increasing violation of the body of the women and her life in various spheres such as economic, political and social – or in short, in the everydayness of her existence. What is being proposed then, is the need for women specific political agenda. If within a broader frame or condition of life, the category of women is put central and a gender reading of such life is attempted, then it will not only be about empowerment but also of justice. For that matter, women empowerment cannot be confined within the limited scope of imparting education at par with males. Yes, education is crucial but it is not enough. Women empowerment needs to encompass the capability to defend and protect themselves from all kinds of violence committed by not only military personnel but also male civilians.  It is a tragedy that despite the rich and long tradition of women’s movements, Manipur is yet to witness any gender-centric mass movement. Its absence is conspicuous by itself given the fact that domestic violence, rape and murder of women have been disturbing the collective psyche of our people more frequently than ever before. Women empowerment, in the true sense of the term, would be the most fitting tribute to all those brave mothers of the Nupi Lan saga.