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E-Pao! Essays - A Narrative on the Origin of the Meira Paibis

A Narrative on the Origin of the Meira Paibis

By: Binalakshmi Nepram / (Courtesy : Dr. Bishwajeet Elangbam) *



Armed with Meiras as the only weapon, women Meira Paibis of Manipur are struggling and fighting a third Nupi Lan
- Statement Issued by the Nupi Samaj, December 29, 2004


On 29 December every year Manipuri Nupi Samaj celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the Meira Paibi, a unique, powerful mode of women's movement by the women of Manipur. As a researcher, I was not aware of this important day in the history of Manipur till I met Ima Ramani, Secretary of the All Manipur Social Reformation and Development Samaj, also popularly known as Nupi Samaj.

It was one cold monday morning on 27 December, 2004 when I met Ima Ramani in the compound of Bhagyachandra Open Air Theatre. Ima Ramani was hesitant when I approached her as she mentioned that she was tired of the numerous interviews that she had given.

However after convincing her that I have come to her not to ask questions but to listen, learn and work with her and numerous other Meira Paibis, Ima Ramani barred her mind and soul to narrate to me the origin of the Meira Paibis. I sat numb, as she mixed courage, tears and dismay in her narrative.

It was a simple yet powerful narrative which will remain in the memory of every a Manipuri. Allow me , dear readers , to share the narrative through these printed words, a narrative that explains the origin of the Meira Paibis, through the words of the one who was one of its founding members.

On a cold December 29 morning in 1980, a youth named Lourembam Ibomcha and another were blind folded and taken by the Indian army to the Langthabal Army base camp ( located near Manipur University) . The charge leveled against was that he was the one to plant a bomb at a place in Heirangoithong Maibam Leikai.

Lorembam Ibomcha was arrested on mere charges that his shoes were wet at the time of his arrest that morning and hence must be the one to plant the bomb. Subsequently a combing operation was called upon and all men of the area were taken at 6 am to Kakwa ground for interrogation.

On hearing Ibomcha'a arrest, about a 100 women convinced of his innocence rallied by Ima Ramani, Ima Chaobi and Ima Momon went to the Langthabal Army Camp. The army shouted "Halt" to the women and the women shouted back saying "Give us back our innocent".

The army shouted back telling the women that two of them could come in. At this Ima Ramani and Ima Momon ( who knew Hindi ) went inside and the two were told to come back at 2 pm. When the appointed time came, the army gave back Lourembam Ibomcha to the women. The women were shocked at the torture meted out to him.

Lourembam Ibomcha was half-conscious and could not walk and hence the women put him on cycle and got him home. When the women asked what happened, Ibomcha replied that the army poured water through his nose and crushed him with clubs damaging his leg muscles completely. It was then that the women of the area led by Ima Chaobi, Ima Momon and Ima Ramani got together and started patrolling the streets at with "Meiras".

Earlier, the women used 'podons', 'laltain' etc when they were "Nishabandis" but from that day onwards, they used the bright, flaming "Meiras" to have their identity. During Manipur's dark days, the Meiras must have inspired many women to come out of their homes to save the youth of Manipur from many a death, disappearance, illegal torture and extra-judicial killings.

The strength of the women came from the fact that Lourembam Ibomcha was innocent and they rallied hard to save him. In the words of Ima Ramani, "We struggled because the boy was innocent. We came up as Meira Paibis to save Manipur [ from being a land of blood and tears] ".

The words of these valiant Imas came true once again in the most powerful way 24 years after the Meira Paibis first emerged on July 15, 2004 when Ima Ramani and 12 other women stripped in front of the Kangla to register their protest against the arrest, torture, rape and extra-judicial killing of Th. Manorama Devi, an act of defiance and courage that shook not only the Indian sub-continent but the entire world. On this day 29 December 2004, we salute the courage and conviction of these legendary Meira Paibis.




Bina Nepram is the author of the book "Meckhley" and currently work as a research scholar with Saferworld, based in UK.
She is one of the esteemed member of European Manipuri association.

This article was sent courtesy of Dr. Bishwajeet Elangbam. He can be reached at biswaelangbam@yahoo.com
This article was webcasted on Jan 09th 2005.

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