They don’t wear blue helmets nor are they uniformed, but their attempt to maintain peace in Manipur’s most backward district of Tamenglong — riddled with internecine clashes — is somewhat akin to that of a United Nations Peacekeeping Force in a war-torn nation.
Under the banner of Inrilangluang Luh Chujaenj Phum (Women’s Peacekeeping Organisation), over 700 women are trying to maintain peace in Tamenglong by just beating iron poles with sticks — creating a loud clanging noise to raise an alarm.
The role of the women’s peacekeeping force is to spot trouble in the district and to alert other team members so that it could be averted.
Monica (40) is among these women. Wielding a stick, she stands guard near an electric pole. If she senses trouble, she starts beating the pole with the stick to alert another woman who is deployed at a stone’s throw. On hearing the sound, she also starts beating the pole. Thus, the chain continues.
“This is how we alert others if we sense trouble in the area. If one woman beats the pole, the others also start beating it. And listening to this, all of us gather to look into the matter,” said Monica, secretary of the organisation.
These women came together to tackle the problems arising out of sparring Naga groups, extortion attempts, drug smuggling, petty troublemakers and finally, the ineffectiveness of the law in tackling these issues. The group was formed last October.
“We were fed up with lawlessness and underground insurgents. Extortion and smuggling of drugs also created problems. The worst part was the common man was collateral damage in the fight between the police and insurgents. The peace of the district was being shattered,” said one of the founding members.
“These problems led us to form this group,” she added. She said that a group of seven to eight women are deployed in each of the seven wards in Tamenglong district and they keep a vigil between 4.30 pm and 10.30 pm.
The women in the group say that they want to ensure peace by reforming society by their own methods. “Many a time we nab smugglers and miscreants but we never hand them over to police. We counsel them and urge them not to repeat the offence,” said Monica, who works as an assistant teacher in a private school.
Asked if the women in the group faced resistance from their family members, Aduanliu, a group member, said: “My husband had objected to my being a peacekeeper but he gradually understood. His objection was out of fear for my safety.”