Rights activist Babloo Loitongbam recalls unique protest held 16 years ago at iconic Kangla Fort in 2004 on Anti-Repression Day
Imphal: Human Rights Alert (HRA) executive director Babloo Loitongbam on Wednesday said that women in Manipur continues to be at the forefront against human rights violation, drug menace and corruption as the spirit against injustice is strongly imbibed in them.
Speaking with EastMojo on the occasion of Anti-Repression Day in Imphal, the rights activist recalled the unique and unconventional protest held 16 years ago at the iconic Kangla Fort in 2004 by women of the state. The protest was staged in the wake of custodial rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama in the most ‘inhuman way’ allegedly by the armed forces, he said.
According to the rights activist, the sight of the 12 women stripping and holding a nude protest in front of the Kangla Fort’s western gate, the then headquarters of Assam Rifles in Manipur, against military atrocities had shaken the world and brought to light what has been covered repressive regime of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to the eyes of the rest of the world.
“That moment of boldness and acts of defiance against military atrocities, especially by the 12 brave women protestors called ‘mothers’, needs to be recaptured and honoured by the present generation and generations to come,” said Loitongbam.
Since 2017, Anti-Repression Day is observed on every 15th of July to recognise, honour and respect the spirit of the brave ‘mothers’ to defiance injustice and to collectively remember the gruesome incident which still awaits justice, said Observation Committee Anti Repression Day assistant secretary Angom Sushma.
The relocation of 17 Assam Rifles Battalion from Kangla Fort in the aftermath of the protest was hardly anything but a mere symbolic act by the Indian government, she added.
Sushma also said that despite identifying the perpetrators and establishing vivid details of gruesome rape and murder of Manorama by the Commission of Inquiry by Manipur government, the culprits are still in active service without any accountability.
Out of the 12 women who staged the historic protest at Kangla Fort, two had already passed away without seeing justice delivered and for the remaining mothers, fear looms large of not witnessing that truth in their lifetime.
Even though they wither away, according to Loitongbam, that spirit needs to live on and nurture for the younger generation.
“I think the spirit of defiance against injustice is still very much alive as we are seeing in a way how a lone policewomen trying to fight the entire indicate of drug peddlers perhaps include the chief minister N Biren Singh himself as per the affidavit filed,” he said.
Even though it is a daunting task, we are glad that the spirit of defiance and fighting injustice still runs strong in Manipur women. And we need to ensure that the spirit does not die and needs to be honour and nurture, he added.
It has been 12 long years fighting for a justice for Manorama and to repeal the draconian law AFSPA from the state but the demands of the protesting ‘mothers’ remain unfulfilled till date. However, according to them, their stands on their struggle for justice still remain firm and strong.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) remains intact in large parts of Manipur, except for a small area under Imphal Municipality.