Manipur’s women and children need succour - Hindustan Times
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Manipur’s women and children need succour

Jun 24, 2023 08:23 PM IST

Politics has to take a backseat in the face of this human tragedy and the priority should be to provide succour to these defenceless women and children first

Women in Manipur, indeed across the Northeast, though largely overlooked in the cacophony of politics, have been leading the fight against the narco-mafia and excesses by security forces. They have been at the forefront of protests against forced detentions and disappearances. Previous ethnic clashes have also seen the efforts made by women to bring back peace. But today, women and children have become victims of Manipur’s bloody ethnic clashes and are unable to organise themselves or get the help that they need so desperately.

Many women and children have had to flee their burnt homes as the violence spread, trudging through jungles to reach refugee camps.(PTI) PREMIUM
Many women and children have had to flee their burnt homes as the violence spread, trudging through jungles to reach refugee camps.(PTI)

Many women and children have had to flee their burnt homes as the violence spread, trudging through jungles to reach refugee camps. Unofficial figures suggest that at least 5,000 women and 2,000 children are now homeless. The situation is particularly dire for pregnant women and women who have just given birth, both of whom need urgent medical assistance. They are crammed into camps set up in schools and churches where there is no separation between men and women – leading to safety risks and no privacy at all.

Journalist Ninglun Hanghal says, “Most of these women are from poor homes, they now have nothing to go back to as their houses have been burnt down. They will have to find some source of income which makes them very vulnerable. The women, especially those pregnant and nursing, need nutrition. But they are solely dependent on civil society organisations which provide basics such as rice and dal which is food, but not the nutrition they need.”

Civil society organisations are doing their best but have no training in how to deal with displacement or women’s particular needs. Some women have alleged sexual harassment in the camps but, most of all, there is a sense of hopelessness, of not knowing how long this will last, or what the future holds. The women need menstrual hygiene products and medicines, which are either in short supply or non-existent in the camps.

Ranjeeta Sadokpam, an activist and a veteran of many peaceful protests, says that the whole tragedy should not be seen in ethnic or religious terms; for women, she adds, it is an issue of immense trauma as many of their husbands and sons have stayed back in the troubled areas to defend what is left of their lands and homes. “These women have no timelines on when things might get better, they are in a limbo. The children are traumatised and worried about their education, many have seen their kin killed or their homes burned down. We need counsellors but we are lucky to get basic amenities. In this horrific situation, a black market has sprung up where rice, which should be available for 3 a kilo, is selling for 31 a kilo. A gas cylinder is 2,000, how does a person who has lost everything survive?”

Other activists, too, say that women have been treated as collateral damage, and no one has thought of addressing their needs, health, safety or mental wellbeing.

It is still not too late for the government to step up efforts with civil society groups and ensure that the women and children victims of this conflict are not further traumatised. Politics has to take a backseat in the face of this human tragedy and the priority should be to provide succour to these defenceless women and children first.

The views expressed are personal

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