Today, Thursday 4th October 2018, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrates the courage of Binalakshmi Nepram, a courageous indigenous human rights defender and author from the state of Manipur, on the Indo-Myanmar border area.
Binalakshmi co-founded India’s first civil society organisation to work on disarmament and to oppose growing militarisation, the Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI). In 2007, she launched the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, which has helped more than 20,000 women survivors of gun violence in the 70-year-long armed conflict in Manipur to rebuild their lives and obtain justice.
Binalakshmi grew up in Manipur, where day-to-day life is fragile with crossfire and violence on a daily basis, and lost her very young niece and nearly her parents. This became a turning point for her to mobilize women for the first ever ‘Women Gun Survivors Network’ in the country and to advocate for arms control. Binalakshmi is currently outside India, following threats against her by the Indian government. From there, and despite the danger she faces, Binalakshmi continues to campaign publicly for arms and gun control, the victims of the armed conflict in Manipur, and the rights of indigenous women.
On accepting the award, Binalakshmi Nepram said:
“I thank the organisation, Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR) and the distinguished jury for choosing to give us/me this honour, along with the noted writer and journalist, Svetlana Alexievich, from Belarus, who was also the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize winner in Literature. I receive this honour wholeheartedly, on behalf of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, Control Arms Foundation of India and the Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace.
Manipur is in the Northeast Region of India, home to 45 million people, belonging to 272 indigenous communities and home also to South Asia’s longest-running armed conflict, where over 50,000 lives have been lost, 400,000 people displaced and where – since 1958 – many have been living under martial law, called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), sanctioned by the Indian Parliament. For many of us, our world of seven decades of war was something India and its policy makers hid from the rest of the world as an entrenched conflict.
This isn’t fair in the world’s largest democracy and we want the immediate repeal of AFSPA, and an end to the weaponisation, militarization, racial-sexual-environmental violence, trafficking, distortion of our indigenous histories and cultures, population engineering and corporatization of our lives.
Our efforts are humanitarian, in order to deepen democracy and to ensure the rule of law. This award is a recognition that we will not be silenced anymore by what we stand for. I dedicate the Anna Politkovskaya Award 2018 to all women survivors of Manipur, Northeast and the world, to my family and to all whose resilience, strength and belief in our work and courage made us rise, speak up, advocate and take action to bring the change we wish to see in this world.”