A few women activists whose names come to mind
I did a little bit of research about activists and social workers before writing this article. I have discovered there is a fine line between an activist and a social worker. The precise meaning goes like this: 'An activist is a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change. Activists call for change. Social workers are professionals who aim to enhance overall well-being and help meet basic and complex needs of communities and people.'
Activists vs Social Workers
During the pandemic in Manipur a lot of 'social workers' came out to help people. They were indeed helpful to us. On that note, I think we must accept the argument that all social work is in some sense political. A social worker is a person whose job is to help people who have serious family problems or financial problems, according to Collins English dictionary. This one is very simple and direct.
Spending some hard cash to help ease hardships of people during difficult times does not make someone a social worker. If that is the case, it may convey a negative connotation. We need more research on social workers if we want to describe them. But we know that helping others is always good.
The Manipur situation has created a number of activists because the State is plagued by years of militancy, violent protests, bandhs and human rights violations. Human rights activism is still popular in the insurgency-afflicted Manipur. We have many advocacy organisations. However, we know that all over the world, human rights activists are facing increased suppression.
Gross human rights violations, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in Manipur were closely linked to the counter-insurgency operations carried out by the security forces. The phenomenon has faded away now. Manipur is showing signs of healing. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised to put an end to violence in the State. According to the Government, violence in Manipur has been the lowest in the last five years, and that insurgency has reduced drastically.
In April this year the Centre announced the withdrawal of AFSPA from different areas under 15 police stations in the valley districts of Manipur. Following the development Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had acknowledged the contributions of Sharmila Chanu, civil society organisations, and women and students' organisations that have protested against the contentious Act.
Manipur has a number of great women activists who are struggling to create change. Activists continue to struggle for peace and justice. As a result of the armed conflict in Manipur many women and girls have lost partners and husbands.
Irom Chanu Sharmila, also known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur" is a great peace activist. She is a civil rights activist, political activist, and also a poet. Sharmila at 28 began a fast to death in protest. Her demand was to repeal the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, AFSPA from Manipur.
Sharmila's hunger strike lasted 16 long years. The anti-AFSPA activist realised the ineffectiveness of her demonstration and ended her fast on August 9, 2016. In an interview with YourStory, Sharmila had explained her reason for ending her movement, “I was looking at AFSPA as a human rights issue, but here it is a political issue. If the CM has the power to repeal AFSPA, I will become the CM.”
Here is another quote by Sharmila--'I think one should change to bring about a change. So I hope that people will understand and cooperate, considering that I have already extended my hand for a joint movement.' By and by, Irom Sharmila married her long-time partner Desmond Coutinha in Kodaikonal, Tamil Nadu.
Renu Takhellambam is another well-known social activist from Manipur. She is renowned for her advocacy of human rights. She is a woman of decorous manners and character. She is president of Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association Manipur (EEVFAM). I once visited her home. The visit I made about two years back was for media purposes. I cannot forget her hospitality and warmth. She knows how to build a friendship with the media. In the journey of life, we meet many people but the best friend is one such person who has been able to make a positive impact on someone's life.
Renu Takhellambam made an address in the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 18, 2019 at Geneva. She took the floor on behalf of NGO PRAHAR during the general debate under Item 8. She urged the Council "to urge Government of India to promptly grant prosecution sanctions and to repeal impunity laws and discriminatory policies to deliver the long awaited justice".
Based on the EEVFAM’s submissions, a wide range of alleged fake encounter cases are before the Supreme Court. Some of them are from prominent and exceptional incidents, such as the 12 people (including five minors) who were killed in firing in 2001 by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Renu lost her husband way back in 2007. Mung Hangzo was shot and killed by Manipur police personnel in an alleged fake encounter in Imphal. Hangzo’s killing is among 1,528 cases of extra-judicial killings that allegedly took place in Manipur between 1979 and 2012 under AFSPA, according to Renu. Unfortunately, EEVFAM is yet to get justice. It says it's daunted by 'delayed' justice. EEVFAM is still waiting for justice.
One of the most recognized legal symbols is that of Justice. The idea of a woman portraying justice dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman images of Themis and Justitia. Themis, the Greek Goddess of justice and law, was known for her clear-sightedness. In Roman mythology, Justitia (Justice) was one of the four Virtues. Justitia was often portrayed as blindfolded, holding scales and a sword. She was sometimes depicted holding the fasces (a bundle of rods around an ax symbolizing judicial authority) in one hand and a flame, symbolizing truth, in the other. Many Western societies still portray justice as a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales. She symbolizes the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, greed, prejudice, or favour.
Binalakshmi Nepram, a rights activist from Manipur, has been supporting the women survivors of violence in North East India. Binalakshmi was the founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network in which she extended a hand of help to more than 20,000 women who have a history of dealing with decades of armed conflicts and ethnic violence. She was a witness of the killing of a 27-year-old man in a village in southern Manipur and later it was she who helped out his young wife Rebika Akham by buying her a sewing machine to earn for a living.
Monika Khangembam from Manipur is also a popular women rights activist, who has also won international accolades for her work in the field of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In the year 2011, she was one of the only four selected from India for the Global Changemakers summit for her work in opposing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 that has resulted in large human rights violations in the North- East. More than this, Monika is the founder of Women and Youth for Peace and Development (WYPD), which is an organisation actively working in field of women empowerment. She is also a member of Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.
Angellica Aribam is a political activist from Manipur working on issues of gender, race, and the democratization of politics. She is the founder of Femme First Foundation, a non-Government organization working to promote women's political leadership in India. Angellica was also a National General Secretary of the National Students' Union of India, the students' wing of the Indian National Congress.
Angellica is an inaugural VVEngage Fellow for women political leaders at Vital Voices, an American NGO founded by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. In 2017, she was named as one of Forbes India's 30 Under 30 for her work on policy and politics. She was the first student from the North Eastern region of India to be elected in the Delhi University Students' Union Executive Committee.
I just came across this beautiful article: There’s a Hero Inside of Everyone, and We’re Not Saying That to Make You Feel Good. 'There’s a Hero Inside of Everyone, and We’re Not Saying That to Make You Feel Good.
The best thing I can come up with is that heroism is doing something where you're really taking risks to help somebody else, and you're not expecting to gain from that risk to yourself.