TODAY -

Women in Manipur

By Heigrujam Nabashyam *



Imagine a world of men and men only. A world where everything except the Homosapiens remain as it is today. A world where men beget men and only men and no women and the Homosapiens sans the sexual urges by the grace of God. What a world-no flavour, no taste, no charm- "s o o o dry" as an Arab friend of mine told me three decades ago when he could not find a girl to his liking.

Right from the beginning-since the beginning of the mankind it is told, it is the charm and the beauty of the woman that makes the world tasteful and exciting. What if there is no woman in the world-Oh, my God-the universe is too small! This is what a woman is and every one of us must know.

Of late there has been an increase of violence against women-the very elixir of life, that makes the world move and Manipur is no exception. Though being a small State with different indigenous communities, Manipur has a history of 2000 years. It is a proud society no less conceited than any other society in India. In spite of a tiny population it is the powerhouse of sports in India. It has given the game of polo to the world. It has contributed in sports and the aesthetic of culture in India no less degree than any other society.

In all this the contribution of the women in Manipur is remarkable. In my own experience till today I have not seen any activity-economic, social, cultural or political where women have not played a crucial role in Manipur.

Take any activity-right in the fields or in the market place, it can safely be said that women contribute no less than the men whether on the hills or in the valley. When we were small we felt strange whenever we see a man selling his goods and wares in the traditional market out in the open because it was all the domain of the women. In the fields too, the role of the women is also prominent and they work side by side with the men. The same is true in other activities whether in quarry, or in brick fields, or in handloom or cottage industry, etc and they play a crucial role in all these economic activities.

In sports, Manipur has earned an honourable place in India. It has also the potential to produce world class sportspersons but for the lack of proper infrastructure and sponsorship, many a sportsperson get lost in between. Yet, it has produced quite a few National champions, Asian champions, Common Wealth champion and World champion. And in all these feats women share fairly with the men.

But the irony is violence against the women in Manipur is reportedly on the rise. Here we must be clear what the problem is all about. We must also understand that violence against women is different from discrimination against women. The two should not be mixed together. The distinction is important and crucial because the modus operandi to tackle violence against women is altogether different from fighting discrimination against women, which I personally feel, is not an issue in Manipur, unlike in the mainland.

It is very encouraging that a women organisation-Women Action For Development, in association with other NGOs in Manipur is highlighting the issue by organising quite a few activities and they deserve all the cooperation from all sections of society. We should also be cautious of our tendency-the hallmark of the Manipuri especially the Meitei-of taking matters at face value and not trying to understand the matter in its totality. Fact is, to tackle the problem effectively it is essential to understand the matter.

Questions should be raised as to what constitutes violence against woman, does a scuffle between a husband and a wife constitute violence against women, to begin with, etc. And what could be the causes and the alternatives? For convenience, we may broadly classify violence against women in two categories;
(a) Violence for sex: This may count all forms of violence connected with sex.
(b) Violence for violence: This may count all forms of violence that are not related with sex. The main cause in this category may be women are soft targets.

Whatever may be the case the victims of violence need solid support not only from the family but also from the society. This is where the civil society organisation can play an effective role and I believe, they do. There are also agencies at the Government level which are specifically established for the purpose like the State Women Commission and Women & Child Welfare Board. At the non-Governmental level there are enough of organisations which can be helpful in tacking the problem besides the Meira Paibis-women activities in every Leikai-every locality.

However, exaggerating the problem, will not help us. Ours is a small society where every single incident is known. And in most cases problems are settled sooner than later by the people's court, except for the cases committed by the security forces. This does not mean that the issue needs no serious consideration. In fact, the issue needs to be studied much deeper. Solution may require special education for women and opening of controlled sex market. The problem may need more serious studies vis-a-vis other cities.

In socio-political sphere Manipur excels in India. Today, Manipur is a free country. Every armed person-overground or underground, official or non-official is a law by himself. Every ethnic group rightfully chooses its own course, guided by its own world view. Every organised group, every civil society organisaion and every JAC is a centre of power. And the Government of Manipur evolves into a guild of politicians-elected by the voters who without distinction, sold their votes for a some Rupees and with or without a meal and without compunction.

Such is Manipur. It seems we have lost direction, for which not only the political leaders, but the elites, the intellectuals and the social workers are responsible. It is high time our intelligent public should wake up to the reality. Instead of blaming-Naharol, Nupi-Angang-the insurgents, women and youths, the intelligent public must find time to engage the women and youths in meaningful discussions periodically. This is the need of the hour.

It is also true that the Meitei-the major and most problematic community simply does not have a social platform to discuss serious social matters. This is a serious lapse which needs to be addressed on top priority and the responsibility for this lies with the Meitei elites and Meitei intellectuals and not with the Nupi-Angang. Once this lapse is taken care of, the result would be stunning.




* Heigrujam Nabashyam ( An Ex-Candidate for Singjamei a/c, Manipur) contributes to e-pao.net regularly. The writers can be contacted at nheikrujua(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on April 05 2010.


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