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Manipur ‘gun widows’ call for end to violence
Manipur Women Gun Survivors’ Network founder Binalakshmi Nepram speaks at the programme in Imphal on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Md Azad Khan of Thoubal was allegedly killed in a fake encounter by government forces in 2009. His widow, Mumtaz, 36, was forced out of her husband’s house by her in-laws. At present she weaves cloth to feed two children.

Edina Devi’s husband Ningthoujam Anand was picked up from Imphal city and allegedly killed in a fake encounter by government forces in Senapati district in 2009. She is also struggling to bring up her two children by running a small shop.

Irom Chitra, a young mother is running from pillar to post to seek justice for her only son Roger, 19, who was allegedly killed by N. Ajay Singh, son of irrigation and flood control minister, N. Biren.

Imphal, June 17: Widows of the ongoing armed conflict in Manipur and relatives of victims calling themselves “gun survivors” gathered at a hotel here to observe the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence today to chalk out strategies to stop gun violence and for their own survival.

The programme was organised by Manipur Women Gun Survivors’ Network, an NGO, to help gun survivors (widows) in making a living. They shared their pain, suffering and struggle to eke out a living. “Police cannot kill a man without trial. They might think they punished my husband. But what they really did was they punished me, my children, my husband’s relatives and my relatives for no fault of ours,” Edina said. When security forces allegedly killed her husband they had accused him of being a militant.

Mumtaz said, “When they ‘killed’ my husband they also killed me and my children.”

“Over 20,000 people were killed in the five-decade long armed conflict in Manipur, where more than 30 armed groups operate and 40 security battalions are deployed. About 300 women were made widows every year by the conflict,” Binalakshmi Nepram, the general secretary of Control Arms Foundation, India and the founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors’ Network, said.

Nepram, who studied extensively on proliferation of small arms in South East Asia, said Manipur was flooded with small arms made in India and various foreign countries, including the US and Israel. She said guns from troubled Afghanistan were also routed to Manipur.

It is when Irom Chitra narrated her ordeal after her son Roger was allegedlykilled that all present, mostly women relatives of victims, wailed for their own hard life and “bleak future”.

The struggle for a living is not the only challenge faced by the widows. As Edina said, they were ill-treated by society. The problem is compounded when some of the widows turned to flesh trade to make a living, NGO activists pointed out.

The Imphal Declaration made at the end of the programme called on the Manipur government, the Union government and the international community to check gun violence in Manipur and help gun survivors.

The declaration also called for removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

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