By Kamalika Sengupta (Guest Post)
As I boarded my plane for Imphal, my expectation was that my coverage of the Manipur Assembly election would definitely include stories related to women.
One of the first things I tried to do soon after I landed in Manipur was to find out about women’s participation in politics in the state. It came as a shock to me when I found that only 17 women were contesting while more than 200 candidates were in the fray.
There is a common perception in the rest of India that women in the northeastern region of the country are more vocal and empowered than their counterparts in the “mainland”. It is known that the Khasi community in Meghalaya is matrilineal; Manipur has seen the movement against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – or AFSPA – that Irom Sharmila Chanu came to symbolise and the “naked protest” by women who stripped in public to register their anger and sorrow after the brutal rape and murder of Manorama Thangjam, known as Meira Paibis (Women Torchbearers).
On the ground, however, this election shows a different picture all together. In spite of boasting what is said to be the oldest and largest women-led and run market, Ima Keithel (Mothers’ Market), in spite of having such a strong, empowering women’s history, this election shows that women in the state still have a long way to go in terms of participation in politics, especially as candidates for elections.
From visiting the Ima market to following the campaigns of women candidates, different societal trends came to be reflected in my stories.
At times I got the feeling that male politicians in Manipur (as elsewhere) are still hesitant about giving space to women. This feeling is obviously shared. Some women in politics told me that it is a game of money and muscle power and, since women cannot or will not play it, they are not allowed to join in.
Still, when I met Brinda, the cop who left policing to participate in politics, I felt things will change one day: more Brindas will surely emerge sooner rather than later.
My stories below provide more information and insight into women and the Manipur polls 2022:
Manipur Elections 2022: Why a State with an All-Women’s Market Offers Little Space to Women in Politics
News18 Campaign Trail in Manipur: Former Woman Cop Who Wants to Protect the State from Drugs
Video interview with Thounaojam Brinda, former police officer
From the Editors
More articles on women and the 2022 Assembly elections in Manipur by NWMI members:
https://indiaaheadnews.com/opinion/appalling-electoral-representation-shreds-the-empowered-manipur-women-narrative-101237/ – by Chitra Ahanthem
https://www.eastmojo.com/manipur/2022/02/06/manipur-2022-women-remain-mere-voters-in-electoral-politics/ – by Ninglun Hanghal
Kamalika Sengupta, Editor, Digital East of News18, is a multilingual journalist with 16 years of experience in covering the east and northeast, with specialisation in politics and defence.