In Manipur – mostly under curfew now depending on the situation at hand – security forces like army, police or paramilitary forces have been given the power to check vehicles as and when required. But there are other kinds of checkpoints that dot the interiors of the violence-hit state as you travel out of Imphal. Your vehicle will be stopped here every 2 to 3 km but what’s interesting is women are on guard at almost all of these.
These all-women “checkpoints”, too, are keeping a track of who, or rather what, is passing through. News18 travelled to different parts of the state and saw women sitting on the ground and the road blocked from one side. The women stop vehicles, check them just like the police do, and then allow them to pass.
“The women are doing this in shifts; you never know, there is information that cars are being used to transport arms through this road. What can they do but keep vigil?” a local driver told News18.
The women were stopping cars on this route only when required. Most of the women guarding these points belong to the Meira Paibi group, which is a prominent intellectual women’s group and is considered a torch-bearer of advocating for social issues.
In Dolaithabhi, the number of such all-women checkpoints is increasing. In almost all such stops, they have erected tents and have used tree trunks or boulders to create makeshift checkpoints.
“They are carrying weapons through these roads; we need to be vigilant. Why are they doing this? We have to guard ourselves; this can’t go on,” a woman named Devrani told News18. “We too want peace but they are transporting weapons so we have to check.”
But the question arises that if security forces already have checkpoints, what was the need for this?
“They are all in it together so we have to check on our own,” alleged another woman at one of these points, displaying a deep mistrust of the authorities.
A large number of army trucks with rations were also spotted standing for a long time on this route. When News18 inquired as to why the trucks were not moving, a junior soldier from the convoy said, “You go and find out why, we don’t know.”
The women’s group had stopped the army convoy and, since they were female, the forces chose not to engage and did as they were asked.
Sources told News18 that union home minister Amit Shah has made it clear that vehicles belonging to the security forces cannot be stopped and chief minister N Biren Singh also appealed to the people not to continue with this.
During a press conference, Shah made it clear that the forces should not face any hindrance in transporting relief material. A brief by the state government also shows that this needs to be strictly followed.