Kolkata, Jan 11 : When Nirbhaya is raped and killed in Delhi, the whole country rises in condemnation against the incident. But when a Manipuri actress is molested in distant Chandel while on a fund-raising show, it turns into a Meitei versus Naga issue.
Citing this as an instance of discrimination against women in the north-east, associate professor of Manipur University N Vijaylakshmi Brara argued on Wednesday that women were still a marginalized part of society in many parts of the region.
She was speaking in Kolkata on 'Conflict, Gender and Displacement with special focus on India's North-East' at a conference organized by the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration jointly with Calcutta Research Group. "What mattered in the Chandel incident was the pride and the honour of the community. Nobody bothered about the individual," she explained. Citing the instance of opposition in Nagaland to allowing women to have their quotas in elected municipal bodies, she said women in parts of the northeast were still marginalized. She wondered why the Meira Paibis - powerful vigilance groups of women - were not involved in peace negotiations with undergrounds in Manipur.
Women were especially vulnerable to continued violence in the northeastern states, Vijaylakshmi and other speakers pointed out. The Naga-Kuki clashes in Manipur in 1997 was followed by a "domestic chaos" as the divorce rate shot up in families formed from intermarriages between these two communities, Vijaylakshmi said. Associate professor of Cotton College, Guwahati, Rakhee Kalita said after coming overground since the ceasefire, many women cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom had "gradually disappeared."
While many menfolk among the ULFA cadres who had come overground had subsequently been rehabilitated in sociey and even co-opted in government jobs, women members had been 'tossed about between the outfit and the government." While ULFA plead inability to help them, the government would turn a deaf ear. "For fear of facing social stigma, these women are disappearing."
Former president of Naga Mothers' Association Kheseli Chisi said 80 per cent of the internally displaced persons in ethnic violence were women and children. She was in favour of changes in some customary laws which were fetters for women.