In Nupi Lan Marathon To Honour Manipur Women Fight Against Colonial Rule, Age Is Not The Limit
Two women participants at a marathon on the anniversary of Manipur’s Nupi Lan, in Delhi on Tuesday New Delhi:
A 17-year-old girl and an 84-year-old woman were the youngest and the eldest runners at a women’s marathon held in Delhi on the anniversary of the Nupi Lan, or Women’s War, considered one of the most important historical events of Manipur, formerly a kingdom.
Olympic silver medallist and Manipur resident Mirabai Chanu, who attended the event held in Delhi University’s polo ground on Tuesday, told NDTV nothing could have prepared her to see Manipur’s imas (mothers) run spiritedly for several kilometres in their traditional phanek, a loin cloth wrapped around the waist like a sarong.
“Today is a very special day. It is Nupi Lan, a significant day in the history of Manipur, when women saved Manipur from colonial atrocities. They fought for Manipur. Today, we the women of Manipur came together to remember and honour them. I am very happy to be here, to see the imas (mothers) of Manipur run a marathon,” Ms Chanu told NDTV.
“At the same time, I feel sad. I don’t know when will the violence in Manipur end. The young generation has been put under immense pressure. Their future is uncertain… I appeal to the Centre, the state government and the Prime Minister to help bring peace to Manipur as soon as possible. We want to see a beautiful Manipur – as it has always been – where everyone lived peacefully,” the former world champion in weightlifting told NDTV.
The event organised by the civil society organisation Ningols United Progressive Initiative (NUPI) allowed only women – not men – from any community in the state to participate in the marathon as it was themed on the Nupi Lan, named after the events in Manipur’s history – one in 1904 and the other in 1939 – when women rose up and fought against colonial soldiers over their atrocious social and economic decisions.
“We wanted to celebrate Manipur women’s historical contributions… We highlighted the resilience of Manipur’s women in protecting the integrity of their community,” NUPI spokesperson Reemi Khaidem said. Her group is based in Delhi and comprises only women who help the economically weak sections, provide educational incentives, and work for women empowerment.
NUPI in a statement said the historical event has gained immense relevance amid the ethnic tensions in Manipur – “as designed and enforced by certain covert and overt forces” – which has led to the women of Manipur to rise up and defend the state, in parallels with Nupi Lan.
Apart from the Olympian, other key guests at the event included singer Naba Volcano, author Rami Niranjan Desai, folk singer Mangka, actor Soma Laishram, Manipur journalist Sonia, and historian and author Dr Malem Ningthouja.
“The 1939 Nupi Lan showed a strategic union of men and women when women took the frontline initiative for a collective cause to overcome the economic onslaught of colonial market forces that were responsible for the rice famine, exorbitant extraction, and monopoly. Sooner, it had catalytic impacts on the demand for sovereignty and responsible government,” Dr Ningthouja said.
Ms Desai, who has done a significant research work in the northeast, said it was a pleasure to see the elderly women of Manipur run the marathon in a symbolic show of strength. “It’s (Nupi Lan) the greatest movement not just for this country but in the world, a selfless movement… The collective voice of Manipuri women has always led and will continue to lead to bring the power to restore peace,” said Ms Desai, who is also an anthropologist.
Folk singer Mangka said Manipur has not seen a single revolution in which women have not taken part.
Khurien Dhangshwa, 17, won the 5-km ‘run for unity’ race; N Jerina Devi, 25, finished second, and L Bidyarani, 27, came third. Nonibala Devi, 56, was the oldest woman who completed the race. The youngest to complete the race but who did not come in the first three slots was Jenita Devi, 18.
Sanayaima Gurumayum, 84, was honoured with a special prize for her participation.