That place far, far away: Manipur

Two articles on Manipur, brought to my attention by the India Together, give voice to the goings-on in Manipur. The mainstream media in India pretty much ignores most of the North-East, especially the smaller states. You may hear about Assam occasionally, but Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram are names you may hear in school, during Geography lessons, and maybe during the elections.

The first article is titled Disturbed in Manipur is by the excellent Kalpana Sharma.

The votes from Manipur in distant northeastern India might not determine which party comes to power in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. But one thing is certain. The women of Imphal, its capital, are clear what must happen if any party wants their vote. “We have had enough. If the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is not removed, we will not vote”, said an impassioned 78-year-old Ima K. Taruni.

Taruni and dozens of other elderly women, the Meira Paibi or Torch Bearers, were waiting quietly and patiently outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal on March 7, expecting Irom Sharmila, the iconic human rights campaigner who has been on an indefinite hunger strike for eight years, to be released from the security ward of the hospital. Sharmila and the Meira Paibi, who were also on a relay hunger strike, have one demand – remove the AFSPA. They hold this draconian law responsible for the insecure lives they lead in their own State as over 55,000 members of the Indian armed forces are granted total immunity for any of their actions.

The second article/opinion piece is titled Making news in the Northeast and is by Ammu Joseph, another journalist whose articles I’ve linked to previously on this blog.

…The channel, like most other “mainland” media, does not have a correspondent stationed in Manipur – so this was an opportunity to get some real-time news from a far-flung corner of the country without much effort or expense. But the initial response to her enthusiastic effort was: “This happens every year — so what’s the story?”

Lakme and other Fashion Weeks happen every year. Miss Indias and other beauty queens are crowned every year. Blue-chip companies announce their quarterly and annual results every year. Job placements happen in the IIMs every year. Cricket matches are played through the year with scarcely a break. Star-studded Bollywood films are released practically every week. The Sensex and Nifty go up and down every day and film stars’ romances wax and wane almost as regularly. The media cover all these happenings faithfully despite their invariably repetitive nature.

But a woman who is so serious about a political struggle (with widespread popular support in the state) that she is willing to sacrifice her life for it is not worth a mention merely because her short-lived respite from more than eight years of imprisonment occurs every year?

What more can I say? Read both the articles: Disturbed in Manipur and Making news in the Northeast.

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