Why is there no sense of shame & anguish?

   By Vijay Darda | 24-07-2023

Over 150 deaths in two-and-a-half months and 60,000 people rendered homeless; rioters turned rape into a weapon in Manipur!

This is my third article on the violence in Manipur in two and a half months, but the incident of two women being paraded naked on the streets and gangraped has torn my heart out. My mind is heavy with sorrow, shame and full of anguish. Where does such cruelty and shamelessness originate? One of the victims’ husband is a retired Army subedar who fought in the Kargil war. He was also a part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka. Imagine the pain of such a valiant subedar who was always ready to defend the motherland? He has also expressed regret for failing to save his wife’s honour. His words resonate in my ears like molten lead.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly stated that the tragedy in Manipur of women being paraded naked, humiliated and raped has brought the entire country to shame. Nevertheless, why are the extremely shameful incidents of rape weaponised to torment innocent people in Manipur riots and the agony of burning Manipur not being reflected with intensity in the country? Where are the members of society who become restive over even the most trivial issues concerning religious places? Humanity is being slaughtered and its dignity is being pillaged in Manipur and the country is deafeningly mute! This silence is both shameful and agonising!

I have felt that the rest of the country is not properly aware of the Northeastern states. People’s attitude changes as a result of the physical appearance of the people there. Consider what would have been the scenario across the whole country if what Manipur is witnessing would have happened in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar or Uttar Pradesh? The whole country would have simmered in that pain, the anger would have flared up, but there is no such reaction in the country vis-a-vis Manipur. The emotion is not on boil anywhere in the rest of the country. I am constantly on the move and keep meeting people. I have found that many people have no idea about what’s going on in Manipur. And those who know, do not know the reason behind Manipur riots and how brutally people are being tormented there. This indifference is extremely painful!

Now there is a talk of a discussion in the Parliament over Manipur violence. The discussion should undoubtedly be held as a debate in the Parliament has an effect on the whole country. But the important thing is that this discussion should be fair. It should not be political. There are some issues which even the Opposition should keep above politics. There are some valid questions about the riots not being brought under control even after two-and-a-half months, but the allegation that the Prime Minister is not doing anything or the home minister is not doing anything is baseless. This does not happen. There can be failures for a variety of reasons and they do happen. Naxalism is an example of this. The Naxal insurgency, which began in 1967 from Naxalbari village in West Bengal, has spread to numerous parts of the country. Efforts have been made for more than four decades to curb Naxalite violence, but it could not be eradicated. Many of our prominent politicians were killed, and many officers of police and paramilitary forces and hundreds of jawans have laid down their lives to end Naxalism! Despite this, we could not eliminate the Naxalites, but we cannot say that the government is not doing anything or the police force is doing nothing. Be it any kind of militancy or the Manipur riots, it is easy to suggest that they should be gunned down. Undoubtedly, it is natural to get angry and agitated but in the administrative system, one has to work with restraint. It has to be kept in mind that no innocent life is lost. Given the circumstances surrounding the situation in Manipur, all political parties should come together to find a solution. It is not for the government alone to handle this situation.

Many people from Manipur work in Maharashtra. Some are pilots and air hostesses while some women are working in beauty parlours and spas, and some of them are in other businesses. Over the last few days, I talked to many of them to understand the situation there. All of them categorically said that this is not a political issue. It is a battle of supremacy between two communities, Meitei and Kuki. Meitei mostly follow Hindu religion while Kuki tribe mostly follows Christianity and some other religions. This fight should be seen in this context as there has been a long history of fierce fights between tribes in North-East India. In Nagaland, there was a time when people from one tribe would behead those from the rival tribe!

However, in democratic India of this new era of development and prosperity, such animosity between communities where women from other communities are paraded naked and gangraped, ambulance carrying newborn is burnt and houses set on fire, is not only terrible and painful but also a warning bell for the country. The figures are frightening. The two-and-a-half months of rioting has witnessed over 150 deaths, 300 injuries and over 6,000 FIRs, leaving around 60,000 people homeless! Just think about those who are raped and whose homes are destroyed. The terror that leaves them scarred permanently! Manipur has been robbed of its life and dignity, so to say. Manipur’s playgrounds, which produced legends like Mary Kom, Mirabai Chanu, Kunjarani Devi, Sarita Devi, Sanjita Chanu and many more, are deserted as barbarians are ruling the roost there. I am terrified while writing about them and my heart is sinking. Oh God! Restore peace in the beautiful valley!

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