Art of debuting a column:
The news that I am requested to write a column from Kangla Online came like a spring surprise. The last time I was asked to pen a column was by Friday Times from Lahore. I ducked the wonderful offer as Hindutva politics was at its height in India at that time and I was worried about how I would be perceived penning my thoughts down for a Pakistani paper.
And for years, a lot of people who are my well wishers have been telling me, “Do a column, do some regular writings in newspaper columns”.There is a total absence of people, commentators and writers on the issue that I work in and those who did had lifted most of their writings from our research. For years, I have been busy with leading research, advocacy and campaigns for a more safer life, a safer society for all of us to live in by working on arms control and disarmament issues both at local, national and international level and least of what I thought of was to do a column.
So, what do I write about in this column that is starting today? What name can I give it ? What subject should it contain? All these thoughts have been traveling with me for quite some time. And then finally, after consultation with well wishers, decided to name it “Manipur and the World”. Yes, that would be the name of my column.
For years, I have always felt the disconnect with which Manipur my home state has felt with the world outside. I hope that with this column I can take the world to Manipur and Manipur to the world. Stay by my side and enjoy the journey to the world and also take Manipur to the world as I take you through these columns.
The Norwegians Came Calling
This week, I shall write about the visit of Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister and Secretary of State, Mr Espen Barth Eide in New Delhi in April 2011. Secretary Espen during his short visit delivered a lecture on Strategic Planning for a complex world in Delhi. He clearly mentioned about Asian security dynamics becoming global security dynamics. 21st century is seeing major power shift from old classical west to Asia. However he clearly noted how the United Nations is central to world order. He also noted that what happened in Arab world revolt was a result of educated youth but no jobs, facebook but no voting rights. Is New Delhi listening? Are net savvy Manipuri youths who are tweeting from around the world listening ?The Minister inspite of the seriousness of what he came to speak did not forget to congratulate India on winning World Cup Cricket. He also noted the “cricket diplomacy” that happened between India and Pakistan. I later met Minister Eide later end of his visit where I held talks with him on issues ranging on United Nations disarmament issues and also briefed him on what is happening in India’s Northeast.
Anna is usually a woman’s name in the west. I have many friends with that name, so too famous novels like Anna Karenina of Loy Tolstoy. However, in India, Anna can be a very famous man’s name as it happened in beginning of April 2011.After the stunning and heady win of India in World Cup Cricket, we were suddenly thrown a heavy dosage of Anna Hazare’s four day fast against corruption the week later. Television channels aired his hunger strike “live” from Jantar Mantar, reporting on every move. Celebrities tweeted and famous citizens came out to support Anna. The climax was building up and suddenly after 4 days of hunger strike, after all demands are made, Anna broke his fast. The quickness of solution made me sit up and think what happened to 10 years of hunger strike by Eche Irom Sharmila ? And as CNN IBN’s Editor Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted on 9th April, “Anna’s fast for four days brought UPA to its knees. Irom Sharmila’s fast for 10 years still hasn’t changed Manipur”. We have a long way to go before we bring change in Manipur. Don’t we but then the scent of non-violent Jasmine Revolution that shook Tunisia is still wafting in the air. Can much needed change in my Manipur be far behind?
About the columnist
Binalakshmi Nepram is founder-Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and Secretary General of Control Arms Foundation of India. She has authored four books and several articles and has represented civil society at United Nations in several arms control and disarmament forums. Ms Nepram was awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize for 2010 by Nobel Prize winning organization, International Peace Bureau. Binalakshmi can be reached at Binalakshmi@gmail.com