Giving voice to the voiceless
by Askari Jaffer - THE HANS INDIA | Published: Thursday, January 05, 2017
Binalakshmi Nepram is a humanitarian, author, activist in the advocacy of gender-rights and women-led disarmament movements.
Her objective is to end gun culture and bring peace in her home state Manipur
in particular and the Northeast in general. For her contributions in
this field to Manipur and the Northeast she is known by the epithet ‘The
Face & Voice of North-East’.
Binalakshmi founded the ‘Manipur
Women Gun Survivors Network’ and she is the secretary general of Control
Arms Foundation of India.
What made you take up activism?
If we see injustice and wrong happening around us some people cannot
keep quiet. It’s as simple as that. People either pretend not to see or
ignore it and life goes on. But some of us cannot pretend and are
extremely mindful about the happenings. That is why I joined activism.
You have seen violence day in and day out, so how did you cope with it?
You know, the human mind is a very powerful; you face challenges time
and again; but it's your mind that keeps you calm and alright.
What was the reason behind starting your NGO?
I grew up in Manipur, where 20,000 people are killed in the ongoing violence. We have 60 armed groups and one lakh Indian armed forces
operating in my area. I have grown up seeing only guns and men with
guns. I have always seen mothers surviving after the death of children,
it’s painful. I have seen massacres and I have stopped my morning walks
after seeing that. This trauma lives in you and two things can happen to
you; either you get depressed or you fight back. So we fought back,
which is peaceful and non-violent. This is why we set up this
organisation in 2004. It has been 10 years now and the journey is still
Tell us about the works of your organisation.
We help the less fortunate people or the people who are grieving because
of the loss of their dear ones. Believe me, they get strength when we
counsel, or help them and by that, we also get the strength to
That’s how our work got proliferated
all across 300 villages in the North-East. We travel village after
village and now we have a huge amount of work going on in Manipur and
beyond. In all the seven Northeastern states we have set up five women
support centres. In Tripura, Bangladesh border and in Myanmar border we set up one centre recently. We also started a centre in New Delhi.
When a woman undergoes some kind of trauma there is not a single place
where she can go for counseling. So we have set up these women support
centres to tell women that here is a place for them and they can come
Have you personally faced any violent incident?
Every person in Manipur has a family, who has suffered losses. My
14-year-old niece died in a bomb blast and interestingly she went for
badminton practice early morning. Every one of us has stories and we
have gone through some or other kind of pain.
What problems you faced when you started?
One becomes fearful if one has a personal agenda. For us, humanitarian
work is our agenda. We do not take sides. Whether it’s a killing by
military or extremists we do not take sides. After the killing, we take
the survey of the family.
We see the parameters like – Are they
poor? Are they surviving? Are their children going to school after the
loss of their family members? We look into giving an instant healing to
people. As a result of this the Union government, earlier, thought that I
was propagating insurgency propaganda. After many years I told them to
open a file and check our mails because we have nothing to hide. In 2003
we started talking about violence. In 2011 we won CNN-IBN ‘Real Heroes’ award.
Tell us about your book?
Our new book ‘Where are our Women in Decision Making?’ showcases that
our women are in the decision-making process. It was released recently
and we have provided a blueprint on how India should have a national
plan on women safety and security.
How supportive is your family about your work?
It’s not easy leading a life as an activist. But my destiny is committed
to where I’m. My family members are constantly worried about me. It’s
very important to honour and respect each other’s work.