Imphal: The year just ending was another of violence and more violence in Manipur, one of the most troubled states in India’s northeast.
In a place where militancy never seems to abate, there was little to cheer, with Naga insurgents massacring 20 soldiers in Chandel district in June, inviting a rare but deadly Indian Army retaliation in Myanmar.
The violence has only been compounded by the never ending strikes that have made life very tough for the mass of people all across the landlocked state.
The violence and unrest resulted in the extension of the Disturbed State status till October 2016, preventing the central government from repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The AFSPA is probably the most hated legislation in Manipur, where many say it gives security forces sweeping powers – without any accountability.
Amid the persisting unrest, the 595-km India-Mandalay bus service was kick started to boost the northeast’s trade with neighboring countries and Southeast Asia.
At the start of 2015, Chief Minister Ibobi Singh drew flak after human rights activist from Sharmila, who was fasting for 15 years demanding the repeal of AFSPA, was released from judicial custody but rearrested for continuing her hunger strike.
Sharmila, better known as the Iron Lady, completed 15 years of hunger strike on November 1, with no hopes of her demand being met.
On June 4, a deadly ambush by militants left 20 soldiers of the Dogra Regiment dead in an attack blamed on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) led by S.S. Khaplang, which has refused to accept a peace pact signed by the government and the dominant NSCN-IM faction.
Interestingly, in the last few months, the other Manipur-based armed groups, including the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), the Peoples Liberation Army(PLA) and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) have become dormant and have been taken over by the NSCN-K. These groups have also witnessed a lot of their cadres quitting and joining civilians life.
The attack led to a sneaking surgical strike by the Indian Army in Myanmar territory, an operation that threatened to sour ties between the two countries.
Then came massive protests by the Imphal Valley-based Meitei community demanding Inner Line Permit (ILP) for the state on the lines of ILPs in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
The government was compelled to pass a bill after the agitation and the death of a teenager, Saipam Robinhood.
But this only caused outrage and revolt among the tribals, who said the Meiteis are trying to destabilize the already marginalized tribal population.
The tribal belts of Manipur spread over five districts — Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel, and Churachandpur — constitute 75 percent of the state area with a population of 500,000 to 600,000 while more than 1.4 million Meiteis are packed in an area of 5.5 sq km.
Tribal Lok Sabha member Tangso Baite’s house was burnt after he was accused of not taking up the tribal issue. The turmoil in Churachandpur district left nine tribals dead.
Amid the tumult, the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral highway became operational. And the Imphal-Mandalay bus service was flagged off on December 10.
The bus journey between Imphal and Mandalay will be covered in 14 hours. It is the first bus link to provide direct connectivity between India and Myanmar.(Rupesh Dutta, IANS)
India prides itself on its so called diversity but these are just plain talks. The real situation on the ground is terrible for all Northeasterners, especially womenfolk. People from Northeast are racially abused by mainland Indians as "chinkis" This derogatory term means an individual with slanted eyes.
The author spent several years in Delhi and sadly witnessed numerous unfortunate incidents in Delhi involving shoddy treatment of Northeast women and girls especially by Jats of urban villages like Katwaria Sarai, Ber Sarai and Munirka.
Northeastern states of India comprises of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim & Mizoram. This region is also referred to as the Seven Sisters. The physical characteristics of the inhabitants of these states are different than the Indian people. Due to which they face racial discrimination in other parts of the country.
Northeasterners have oriental looks and are hard-working, friendly people. Matriarchy is practised among many groups in the Northeast. Successive Indian governments neglected this whole region, as a result it has stayed backwards in terms of infrastructure.
Tourists need special permits from the government authorities to visit many regions of Northeast India. In 1958, the Indian government passed a law, the Armed Forces Special Act (AFSPA) that applies to various seven Northeastern states. This grants security forces the power to search properties without a warrant, to arrest people and to use deadly force if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is acting against the state.
Army officers have legal immunity for their actions as per AFSPA; there can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law. Indian army frequently misuses its power by harassing the residents of Northeast region under the pretext of this draconian law.
Social Exclusion of the Seven Sisters
An activist from Manipur, Irom Chanu Sharmila holds the world record as the longest hunger striker”. Sharmila grew up in Manipur, one of the Seven Sister States in India’s northeast, which has suffered from continuous neglect by the Indian government for decades.
Sharmila’s primary demand to the Indian government has been the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
She started her fast in Malom on 5 November 2000 and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed. She ended her hunger strike on 9 August 2016 after 16 years of fasting. Sadly, AFSPA is still in force. Ordinary people of Northeast India are tormented by Delhi through its army.
No major industry exists in this region, therefore, the employment prospects for the locals are practically non-existent. Basic infrastructure like roads and electricity supply is not up to the mark in this area. Youngsters from these parts migrate to big cities of India like Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore etc. to find jobs.
The women of North East are good looking and fashion conscious. Majority of Indian males are sexually frustrated perverts. They harass Northeast women on a daily basis. People from Northeast are racially abused by mainland Indians as “chinkis”, This derogatory term means an individual with slanted eyes.
The same abusive word is also used by the majority of Indians while referring to the Chinese citizens. State of affairs is dreadful in New Delhi, which is the capital city of India. Delhi has many localities known as Urban Villages. These places are just villages in a name. They do not have any farming land.
Owners of houses in these neighborhoods have got tall buildings erected by flouting all building laws, regulations in order to build the maximum number of rooms and put them on rent to earn easy tax-free cash. Northeast migrants to Delhi are overcharged higher rents by these deceitful landlords.
Urban villages, especially in areas around South Delhi are dominated in particular by a community known as ‘Jats’. They own most of the houses in these parts.
The Jat community comprises of male chauvinists of the worst kind on this planet. They earn huge tax-free income every month as rent from Northeasterners and other migrants to Delhi; as a result, most of them don’t do much productive work. They just sit in groups, play cards and drink liquor from morning-night.
All Indian political parties are scared of Jats as they resort to hooliganism to blackmail central as well as state governments in order to get concessions for their community.
These Jat men have made the life of Northeastern women in Delhi a living hell. These Northeastern women cannot go back to their homes in Northeast because they face sexual violence at the hands of Indian army personnel furthermore; there are no job prospects in the region. They are teased, sexually harassed and even raped by these unscrupulous Jat house owners and their family members.
Delhi Police also has plenty of Jat personnel so, these poor, unfortunate Northeast women cannot even complain about their ordeal to the Police.
A few women, who gather the courage to approach police stations to lodge complaints are ridiculed and abused by the Police staff as women of loose character, ‘chinki whores’ etc.
Northeasterners are highly depressed and frustrated due to this daily ordeal. Their culture, language, food habits and norms are all entirely different from the mainland Indians.
Does Unity in Diversity really exist in India?
India prides itself on its so called diversity but these are just plain talks. The real situation on the ground is terrible for all Northeasterners, especially womenfolk.
The citizens of all seven Northeastern states should not tolerate this discrimination anymore. They must pressurize their local politicians to raise this matter seriously with the central government in Delhi alternatively, they could completely boycott their so called political representatives.
“No taxation without representation”, this slogan originated during the 1750’s and 1760’s in U.S.A. It summarized the primary grievance of American colonists in the thirteen colonies against the British Parliament. This ultimately culminated in the successful American Revolution.
No voting without safety & respect
Northeastern citizens across the entire length and breadth of India should unite under the slogan; “No voting without safety & respect.”
Election Commission of India has introduced NOTA (None of the above) on the ballot papers as an option for the voters. It means that the voter does not find any political party’s candidate competent enough, that’s why they exercise the NOTA option by not voting for a candidate of any political party.
If, the ordinary residents of all seven northeastern states unite together and press NOTA during all state assembly as well as Parliamentary elections, then their local politicians, as well as political parties in Delhi, would definitely wake up to their serious grievances and initiate measures to prevent this dastardly treatment meted out to Northeast citizens in India.
Footnote– This composition is dedicated to three beautiful, kind, compassionate, independent & friendly girls from Northeast India. Suzie, Tanya and Mikii were friends of the author in Delhi during the late 1990’s before we lost contact with each other. These girls were unfortunate victims of numerous atrocities perpetrated on them by Jats.
The writer sincerely hopes that all three of them are presently leading happy, peaceful lives somewhere and women from the Northeast region of India do not face any future trauma in Delhi as well as other cities in India.
– The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China.
June 19 marks the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict
UN Action Against Sexual Violence states that women and children are the worst victims of any violence in the world
Kashmiri women are the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the entire world. 11.6% women in Kashmir Valley have to face of sexual assault and 1 in 7 become victims of rape
– by Supreet Aneja
June 20, 2017: June 19 marks the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. With increasing conflict in the world, the number of sexual cases in such areas are alarming. Whether the conflict is between two people or two countries, women are always the first victims.
UN Action against Sexual Violence states that women and children are the worst victims of any violence in the world. Talking about India, the horrifying cases of sexual abuse against women and children in conflict zones like Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, and Manipur leave one in a sense of shock.
A recent rape case of 14 years old girl on April 2, 2017, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh is one such example, in which security forces while using their power left the poor girl in trauma. This is not the only case.
In a report by National Human Rights Commission in January 2017, it stated about the sexual assault of 16 tribal women between 16th and October 25, 2015. NHRC held the Chhattisgarh Government responsible for the same but the government had sidelined these cases saying that such cases are measures to defame the police forces.
Well, other than Chhattisgarh, the situation in Kashmir is also terrifying. According to the Medicines Sans Frontiers Report of 2005, Kashmiri women are the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the entire world. 11.6% women in Kashmir Valley have to face of sexual assault and 1 in 7 become victims of rape. Government figures reveal that between 2015 and 2016, 595 cases of rape were reported in Jammu and Kashmir.
The sad part is that these figures reveal only those cases that are reported. More than half the cases never come out because of factors like fear of the society and the power of the forces. Human Rights Organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have time and again pressurized India to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives unlimited powers and impunity to the armed forces.
The Secretary of All India Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan, on the day of International Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict shares how government instead of repealing an act like AFSPA, calls such activists anti- nationals. She also emphasizes that the need of the hour is to rouse the conscience of those who don’t live in conflict areas and try to think the plight of the sufferers. And to think if it is nationalist to rape the women in the name of power.
The plight of such unfortunate women, definitely makes us ponder if we are living in the humanitarian world or not. It is that we come forward to stop this epidemic from spreading further. Whether it is in conflict zones or a normal area, done either by security forces or civilians, we should all pledge to stand against sexual violence of any form.
– by Supreet Aneja of Newsgram Twitter: @supreet_aneja