Indian Army And The Legacy
Of Rape In Manipur
By Shivali Tukdeo
24 October, 2004
the Indian narrative of progress and development, the North East has
always remained in footnotes. While mainstream media rarely takes notice
of the violence caused by Indian Army in the North East, recent outpour
of extreme resentment at the military forces did shake both the media
and the state as forty Manipuri women --twelve of them naked-- stormed
the Army headquarters in Imphal, holding signs that read Indian
Army, Rape Us! Thanglam Manoramas brutal murder by Army
personnel was the source of anger for the protesters. Manoramas
murder is far from being an exceptional case in Manipur where rape,
abuse and murder are everyday realities. In their brave protest, Manipuri
shamed Indian army by parading the very female body that brought humiliation
and death to their sisters. With their raw anger and amazing mobilization,
these women refuse to get knocked down by the rape culturethat
enables the victor to demoralize their victim.
The human rights
violations in Manipur are, in fact, sanctioned by the state in the form
of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, which gives enormous
powers to security forces. AFSPA has been operative in Manipur for over
four decades and has given unaccounted power to the security forces
to search, arrest, detain or kill anyone on the basis of suspicion--of
course all in the name of maintaining public order. The
abuse of power by security forces has resulted in incidents of arbitrary
detention, torture, rape and killing.
The systematic misuse
of AFSPA is discussed at great lengths by Amnesty International in the
report Official sanction for killing in Manipur(1998):
broadly defined powers to shoot to kill on the armed forces, this law
has fostered a climate in which the agents of law enforcement use excessive
force with impunity. A pattern of apparently unlawful killings of suspected
members of armed opposition groups has resulted
from the systemic use of lethal force as an alternative to arrest by
the security forces. Civilians, including women and juveniles, have
been among the victims of killing or wounding by security forces.
As though special
powers are not enough, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act goes on
to provide the security forces protection from prosecution! The Committee
on Human Rights has documented 55 selected incidents of arbitrary killings
by security forces between 1980 and 1996 --none of the cases
have been resolved till date.
Invasion of womens
bodies is another consequence of the privilege and power enjoyed by
security forces in Manipur. Countless incidents of molestation and rape
go unreported, while few women who do report do not get fair hearing.
Miss Rose (1974), Neelam Panchabhaiy a (1986), Tamphasana (1990),
Ahanjaobi Devi (1996) tried fighting legal battles against their rapists
but all of these cases were dropped on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Amnesty International gives a disturbing account of the façade
of justice in Manipur:
allegations of widespread human rights violations in areas of the northeast
of India where the Act is in operation, to Amnesty Internationals
knowledge, no member of the security forces has been prosecuted for
a human rights violation.
Besides the threat of violence, women in Manipur also have to contend
with the threat of sexual abuse by the armed forces. Not to speak of
the social stigma attached to rape that doubles up the sense of guilt
privilege and its visible aggression in Manipur can only be understood
in terms of an ancient war tactic which uses rape as a tool to control
and dehumanize the enemy. Given the misogyny of the state,
we must start looking at spaces outside the state for solution of problems.
As Manipuri women take their struggle to streets, they have become an
inspiration to everyone suffering and fighting patriarchy. In struggle,
The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org