Thangjam Manorama: The Unnoticed Nirbhaya From Manipur; And Our Selective Outrage

Posted on December 25, 2013 in Society

By Vishakha Dahiya:

December 16, 2012 — The entire nation was shocked at the brutal gang rape of a girl in Delhi. The disgruntled youth protested against the law and order situation for overlooking the safety of women in Delhi for many years. The result was effectual and all the 4 culprits were given death sentence. The voices we raised were heard and our hopes in law-enforcement agencies were restored. This is one side of outrage that we came across. What happens with the heinous crimes against women from marginalised communities?

AFSPA

The gang rape of “Thangjam Manorama” still remains under the hood. There are many tribal women who suffer a great deal and their voices are persistently unheard. Hers is one such case. On July 10 2004, Thangjam was picked up by security personnel of the Assam Rifles and later was found brutally raped and murdered. She was prosecuted for keeping grenade but at the time of arrest, there was no proof for it. Thangjam was not even given a chance to prove her innocence in the court. A few women in Manipur protested naked against the rape and murder of Thangjam. It was one of the most radical protests of our times by  Meira Paibis, a grouping of several women’s organisations in Manipur, who went naked and protested saying, “Indian Army Rape Us”. Since a woman’s body is used as a tool of oppression, they turned oppression back on its head by reclaiming the body. AFSPA has been under fire for many years now. Does AFSPA provide the “right to rape”? The need of the hour is to stand against the laws that give impunity to the armed and paramilitary forces. Any person found accused of sexual assault should be tried in a civilian court

What we fail to understand is that though we feel satisfied with the justice given to Nirbhaya, we are missing out an important element here — strict laws and regulations against sexual harassment. The barbaric treatment of adivasi women in our country is often overshadowed by the rape cases which make it “big” on news channels. We need to get to the depth of the situation and ensures safety of women in every corner of the country. With the recent development strategies by the government, we need to make sure that it reaches the untouched parts of the country. We need to challenge the laws which promote impunity in any manner.

We need to foresee a brighter future for the women in our country so that no woman has to think twice before raising her voice or stepping out of her home, even after the wee hours of the day. Though armed forces will always be treated with reverence for the support they provide, we can’t afford to lose the sight of such acts which question the very existence of the Armed Forces.

Note: Even though Assam Rifles is nominally under the Ministry of Home Affairs, its officers cadre comes from the Indian Army on deputation and has always operated as a special counterinsurgency force of the army. It is also the oldest paramilitary force in the country, raised as the Cachar Levy. Kindly note that Assam Rifles doesn’t come under the ‘Central Armed Police Forces’ of the Ministry of Home Affairs but is a special ‘paramilitary force’. They do enjoy immunity from prosecution under the AFSPA. Also, kindly note that the Army and MoD were respondents in the Case, at various stages, involving Th. Manorama’s custodial rape and killing.

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