Manipur is one of eight states in the Northeast region of India. This region is reeling from six decades of conflict under the shadow of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). The draconian law has been widely criticised for the fact that it simultaneously escalates antigovernment sentiment as well as anti-insurgency militarisation.
AFSPA grants extraordinary powers to armed forces including the right to ‘fire upon or otherwise use force, even leading to death, of any person who is acting in contravention of any law'. This has been interpreted in a way that has allowed for fatal shooting of civilians on mere suspicion.
This report is prepared by a non-governmental organisation doing grassroots work to empower local women in Manipur. The creation of The Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network stemmed from Christmas Eve 2004, when Binalakshmi Nepram witnesses the aftermath of the killing of 27-year-old Buddhi Moirangthem in Wabgai Lamkhai village of Thoubal district, southeast of Manipur's state capital, Imphal.
There, a group of three gunmen had dragged Buddhi from his car-battery workshop. Within a matter of minutes they shot him dead. To date, his young wife Rebika Akham does not know who the killers were and why they killed her husband.
A few days after the incident, Ms Nepram contributed Rupees 4500 (USD 110) to buy a sewing machine for Rebika. This machine enabled her to stitch and tailor clothes for the villagers and to secure her a humble living after the death of her husband. This intervention was the first ever of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network.
The Network attempts to lift women above the trauma and agony faced in armed conflict by helping them to find ways to heal the scars that decades of violence have caused to the community. The Network's direct intervention promotes a gender sensitive approach to the gun crisis, supports women economically and brings them forward to play a crucial role in small arms policy. It is the first initiative of its kind in India.
The network stresses that women are not passive victims or mere recipients of aid. These women are agents of change who actively engage in arms control and peace building efforts. The network is an exemplification of bottom-up community devised development efforts.