TODAY -

Movements I Have Lived Through In Manipur

Nepoleon Khwairakpam *

Bandh and Protest demanding justice against Molestation of Actress Momoko in Imphal :: 22 December 2012
Bandh and Protest demanding justice against Molestation of Actress Momoko in Imphal on 22 December 2012
Pix - Deepak Oinam



I remember going out on the streets and shouting slogans against the brutal murder of Dr Kishan, Y Token and A Rajen in early 2009. I was in high school back then. I was young but from whatever I had read about Dr. Kishan after his death, had inspired me and a lot of other people. He was an idealist and he died in the most gruesome manner one can imagine. These two factors had led the people to come out of their homes and show their anger and pain. He became an icon; a symbol that we could idolize. We don't have a lot of them in modern Manipur and we know it. There was widespread public outrage and a movement took place to make the government punish the guilty.

Again in 2009, during my 12th standard there was the boycott of schools and colleges for months by the student bodies to protest against the alleged fake encounter of a former insurgent at B.T. Road after Tehelka magazine had published a series of pictures of the incident. The public was further enraged by the fact that a seven-month pregnant woman died after the Police Commandos opened fire irresponsibly in the jam-packed area in the heart of town.

I even remember seeing a picture of the foetus of Th. Rabina on the front page of the leading dailies. These atrocities hurt the sentiments of the public and they took to the streets. Another movement followed to punish those responsible for the crime. It disrupted the academic calendar of the students in that year but the logic was: If you don't have a right to life, how could you possibly have a right to education?

Today Imphal is in flames again. This time the people are demanding the arrest and punishment of NSCN I-M's Lt Col Livingstone who allegedly assaulted and molested a popular Manipuri actress Momoko and opened fire at two other artistes at a charity show at Chandel district in full public view on Dec 18. The public is also more peeved by the fact that the assault happened in the presence of armed security personnel who witnessed the incident but stood as mute spectators. Roads have been blocked; people are turning violent on the streets. All this could have been avoided had our government been more pro-active and understood that the public would not stand such a blatant violation of a woman's rights no matter what the political consequences were.

In all of these cases normal life was disrupted for a long time and Imphal was in total chaos. There were a lot of Bandhs, General Strikes and dharnas as forms of protest. Public meetings and wakat meephams were held all over and even though most of them were peaceful, they were disrupted by the state forces. The government responded by imposing curfews and section 144, CrPC. Thousands of tear gas shells, rubber bullets were fired along with water cannons to contain the protests that took place.

And only then, it seemed to trigger a half- hearted response from our government. It is amazing that we, Manipuris still haven't biologically adapted to tear gas and rubber bullets given the fact that we'd got so much exposure to them. I have not been closely tracking the development of these cases but we can all see that swift and exemplary punishment has never been meted out to the culprits in all the major cases in the past decade or so. These were not instances of the public flexing their muscles to get unreasonable or unrealistic demands. These were cases of the public demanding justice which ought to be served to them, without them having to ask for it.

Why doesn't our government act until and unless Imphal burns literally and figuratively?

And why do we let the people who are supposed to represent us and look after our welfare and grievances in these times neglect us time and again. If we elect the same people who were apathetic and ignorant during the hardships we faced, then isn't it our fault as well? How can we put all the blame on our representatives and the "government" if we elect them again and again even though they forget all their pre-election promises? The public who go for the election campaigns of these politicians and the ones who are out on the streets now is the same.

Aren't we as much responsible for the present turmoil in our state as much as any other party? So if our government doesn't act the way it is supposed to, it is not their inability to do so. It is our inability to make them. If there is a phrase our government has relied upon heavily in the past and present to tackle any internal problem, it is: Ignorance is bliss. They never really have come up with a proper solution to any issue in the recent past that I can think of. But they are masters at brushing problems aside and waiting for the situation to cool down so that the public can forget about it and continue with their lives.

And this method works, and has worked impeccably in the past. How long can any group or a civil society really sustain a movement that requires mass public participation? After some time the people always need to go back to their work and resume their lives. Or else how would the daily wage earners feed themselves and their families. We should know this by now. The failed anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare is a good and fresh example.

Therefore, for any movement to succeed we need our elected leaders' active participation and support. So, when we do elect someone next time we have to make sure that his goals and ambitions align with our hopes and aspirations. If that is the case then there won't be any cases of the public spilling out on the streets and resorting to violence. But, if we do fall prey to the election feasts, liquor and the tempting currency notes just before the polls then we would continue to be vehicles for our "representatives" to exercise their greed and lust for power and money.


* Nepoleon Khwairakpam wrote this article for e-pao.net
I am just another Manipuri youth disturbed by all the negative developments in my homeland and thus, wanted to share some constructive views as to how we can strengthen our movements. I did my schooling at Maria Montessori Sr. Sec School, Koirengei, Imphal. I am currently pursuing my B.Com degree with specialization in Finance along with a Diploma in Capital Markets at Jain University, Bangalore. I can be reached at nepoleon(dot)khwairakpam(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on December 23 2012.


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