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Who Are Meira Paibis: Manipur’s ‘Torch-Bearing’ Women Activists?

The Indian Army’s Spear Corps accused women activists in Manipur of “deliberately blocking routes and interfering in operations of security forces” in a video posted on Twitter on Monday (June...

The Indian Army’s Spear Corps accused women activists in Manipur of “deliberately blocking routes and interfering in operations of security forces” in a video posted on Twitter on Monday (June 26), as the state struggles to contain weeks of rioting and unrest. Since the beginning of May, violence has erupted mostly between the valley-dwelling majority Meiteis and the hills-dwelling Kuki Zomi groups, after the escalation of the old Meitei demand for inclusion on the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs).

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Why In The News?

  • In A Video Posted On Twitter On Monday (June 26), The Spear Corps Of The Indian Army Accused Women Activists In Manipur Of “Deliberately Blocking Routes And Interfering In Operations Of Security Forces” As The State Struggles To Contain The Weekslong Waves Of Rioting And Unrest.
  • Since The Beginning Of May, Violence Has Erupted Mainly Between The Valley-Dwelling Majority Meiteis And Hills-Dwelling Kuki Zomi Groups After The Old Meitei Demand For Inclusion In The List Of Scheduled Tribes (STs) Escalated Dramatically.
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Who Are The Meira Paibis Of Manipur?

  • The Meira Paibis, Also Known As Imas Or Mothers Of Manipur, Are Meitei Women Who Come From All Sections Of Society In The Imphal Valley, Are Widely Respected, And Represent A Powerful Moral Force.
  • The Meira Paibis Are Loosely Organised, Usually Led By Groups Of Senior Women, But Have No Rigid Hierarchy Or Structure, Or Any Overt Political Leanings.
  • They May Become More Visible During Certain Times, But Their Presence And Importance In Manipuri Civil Society Are Permanent And Palpable, And Their Role As Society’s Conscience Keepers Is Widely Acknowledged.
  • During His Recent Visit To Manipur As Violence Raged In The State, Home Minister Amit Shah Met With The Meira Paibis As Part Of His Meetings With Various Civil Society Groups.

Genesis Of Meira Paibis Movement

  • Meira Paibi (Women Torch Bearers) Is A Women’s Social Movement In The Indian State Of Manipur. Referred To As The “Guardians Of Civil Society”, Meira Paibi Dates To 1977 In Present Kakching District.
  • It Derives Its Name From The Flaming Torches Which The Women Carry While Marching Through City Streets, Often At Night. They Do So Both As A Patrol And In Protest, Seeking Redress Against Human Rights Violations Committed By Paramilitary And Armed Forces Units Against The Innocent.
  • Contextualized, Meira Paibi Was Founded At A Time When The People Of Manipur Were Fighting For Self-determination, Political Autonomy, And Independence.
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Major Actions Undertaken By These Women

  • The Meira Paibi Women Were The Active Support Base Of Irom Sharmila, The Activist Who Remained On A Hunger Strike In The State From 2000 To 2016 To Protest Against The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Which Gives The Armed Forces Immunity Against Action In “Disturbed” Areas.
  • In 2015, The State Saw Tensions Over Demands For The Inner Line Permit (ILP) System To Be Introduced There, Requiring Outsiders To Obtain A Permit To Enter. Protesters Contended That This Was Necessary In Order To Protect Local Interests, Culture, And Commercial Opportunities Available To Them.
  • Meira Paibis Were Part Of A Bandh After First Time BJP MLA Heikham Dingo Singh Was Accused Of Going Back On His Promise To Marry A Woman, The Woman Approached The Meira Paibis In Her Locality. The Women Stormed Into Sekmai Town And Stood In Front Of The MLA’s Gates.
  • The Meira Paibis Have Been Reported To Play A Role In The Current Crisis As Well. The Armed Forces Recently Apprehended 12 KYKL Cadres With Arms, Ammunition And War-Like Stores During An Operation In Itham Village In Imphal East, But Were Forced To Release The Men, Reportedly After Pressure From Women Activists Who Confronted The Security Personnel.
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