By G.C. Sapna
(Assistant Professor, MTU and member of Eta: North-East Women’s Network Group)
Amidst the horrendous situations of Manipur- I am foregrounding the peaceful warriors that I came across during my visits to relief camps.
The situation in Manipur has been arduous, fluid and volatile since May 3, 2023. Everyone in Manipur irrespective of their subject position, places, and class is facing the burn of this strife-torn situation. It has been more than four months now since violent clashes broke out between two communities of Manipur - Meitei and Kuki which has affected all 34 communities of Manipur and there is no end to it still.
I have been contributing my bits in rebuilding life and distributing relief materials for the Internally displaced people taking refuge in different relief camps. In continuation to that I started conducting an in-depth survey of the relief camps to understand their genuine concerns and to meticulously work towards meeting their ends.
On the way to Wangoo- which is in the Bishnupur districts I came across Imas (Meira paibis) sleeping and sitting on the roadsides of their villages, peacefully. The Imas said they have been peacefully protesting and safeguarding since May 5th. Their only demand is to restore peace and normalcy in the state. They said they do it on a rotational basis where they spent the whole night on the floors without mattresses.
These Imas don’t possess guns or any other weapons to safeguard their villages. They only have their brave hearts to protect their villages. They are outside their houses to safeguard and protest because they are not able to stay inside their homes as their men have gone to defend their villages in the periphery areas, and anything could happen anytime in their villages.
The Imas rhetorically narrated how they have not been able to sleep properly since May 3, 2023. Their stories exhibit fear, anxiety, pain, and suffering of a sleepless night, loss and traumas. Their village is located in a proximity where incessant firing transpires between the two warring communities. We can imagine the horrors that they go through in everyday life living with constant fear and anxiety. The Ima said most of the men of the village went to the buffer zone to defend the villages. Their life clouded by unwarrant conflict continues to sustain with a hope that peace and normalcy will be restored one day. They fear whether their men will ever come back home and live with them peacefully like they used to be.
They call for normalcy to be restored so they can continue with their normal life. The Imas also appeal to the authorities to bring back stable law and order situations in Manipur. With this prolonged conflict, they have lost their means of livelihood. Instead of going to the field and cultivating, they are protesting and safeguarding with the hope of bringing back normalcy in their lives and their villages. They want their men to have a normal life, live with their families, and want to continue to live with their dreams. They raised their voices calling out to the government to quell the conflict and chaos, especially in the far-flung conflict-affected areas.
Ever since this unprecedented violence flared- thousands of Imas in peripheral areas and also in Imphal have been executing peaceful protests. When such peaceful agitation goes unheard, they resort to blocking roads or creating mayhem to raise their voices. As such they will be targeted, lathi-charged and dispersed using tear gas shells. The voices of peaceful protestors remain unheard and unnoticed- thus marching out to revolt in all possible ways. Still, they are always silent using stringent forces. If only the media, authority, or anyone else bothered to cover and take seriously such a long and continuous peaceful protest of Imas- there would be no reports of casualties from protestors. The gravity of the situation is always underrated until extreme mayhem is created to raise the voice of suffering.
If peace is not the way, then what can be the other way?